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The Indefensible.

Amyiah Cohoon was is a sixteen year old sophomore who in March of 2020 was attending Westfield Area High School in Westfield, Wisconsin.

Amyiah and her classmates decided to visit Florida and were planning on staying from March 7th to March 17th.

On March 9th, Florida Governor Ron Desantis took the initial steps of closing the state. In addition, major attractions such as Walt Disney World, Universal, etc., started announcing they would be closing. Amyiah and her friends ended their vacation early and on March 15th, returned to their homes in Wisconsin.

Four days later, Amyiah began to feel ill and exactly one week after returning from Florida, her parents took her to the hospital. The doctors there told her that she was showing symptoms of COVID-19, but she did not meet the criteria for testing at that time. Amyiah was given an inhaler and her parents were told to monitor Amyiah. Amyiah was told to self-quarantine and if her conditioned worsened, the parents were told to being her back to the hospital.

When Amyiah returned home, she made an Instagram post (seen above) addressed to her classmates and friends:

“Hey guys… sorry I’ve been on a long break.. I wont be back for a while longer due to me no[w] having the COVID-19 virus… I don’t want the attention its just the truth… I am now in self quarantine and am not allow[e]d to leave my room and have an inhaler since they said to go home… best of wishes. love you guys.”

After the Cohoons left the hospital, Mrs. Cohoon called the band teacher who had organized the Florida trip to tell her of Amyiah’s condition and suggested that the band teacher should contact families of the other students who had gone on the trip as a precautionary and informational measure. The band teacher was not available and Mrs. Cohoon never received a return call from the band teacher.

(That’s just callous on the part of the teacher. One of your students is sick and you don’t call the parents of the sick child to ask how she is doing? You don’t tell other parents?)

On March 25th, Amyiah’s condition had worsened and her parents took her to the hospital where she was transferred to a larger hospital better equipped to handle Amyiah’s case.

That same day, Mrs. Cohoon received a call from the school’s principal on an unrelated matter. Mrs. Cohoon told the principal of her daughter’s condition in the hopes that the principal and the band teacher would tell other parents. The Cohoons never heard back from the principal or the band teacher.

The doctor’s told the family that Amyiah had most likely contracted the virus, but because she was no longer in the testing criteria, they could not be sure.

Amyiah improved and was discharged on March 26. After arriving home, she made another Instagram post which read:

I am finally home after being hospitalized for a day and a half. I am still on breathing treatment but have beaten the coronavirus. Stay home and be safe.

That post would become problematic as it is here that the story took a turn for the bizarre.

On March 27th, a police officer appeared on the steps of the Cohoon’s home and spoke to Amyiah’s father. From the compliant filed on behalf of the Cohoons:

36. Sergeant Klump stated that he had direct orders from Sheriff Konrath to demand that Amyiah delete this post, and, if she did not, to cite Amyiah and/or her parents for disorderly conduct and to “start taking people to jail.”

37. Sergeant Klump’s incident report, a true and accurate copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit 6, confirms Defendants’ unlawful actions. Klump’s report explains that “Sheriff Konrath advised me he wished for me to respond to the residence and have the post removed from her social media.” Ex. 5 at 4. The report also states that Klump “advise[d] Richard [Cohoon] that if they were not willing to take the post down, that there would be the possibility of a County Ordinance Disorderly Conduct or being arrested for Disorderly Conduct.” Ex. 5 at 5.

38. Sergeant Klump stated that Sheriff Konrath wanted the post removed because there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county at that time.

….

40. Mr. Cohoon offered to show Sergeant Klump the documents they received from the doctors at Divine Savior indicating that Amyiah’s symptoms were consistent with COVID-19, but Sergeant Klump stated that he was not there to gather information, but to complete Sheriff’s Konrath’s orders. (emphasis in original)

Mr. Cohoon told Klump that if it were his post, he wouldn’t delete it, but as it was his daughter’s post, he’d let her decide.

With the threat of her parents and possible her going to jail, Amyiah deleted the post.

The Cohoons then discovered that Westfield District Administrator Bob Meicher had sent an email to students and parents in the district.

48. Administrator Meicher’s update stated that, “It was brought to my attention today that there was a rumor floating out there that one of our students contracted Covid-19 while on the band trip to Florida two weeks ago. Let me assure you there is NO truth to this. This was a foolish means to get attention and the source of the rumor has been addressed. This rumor had caught the attention of our Public Health Department and she was involved in putting a stop to this nonsense. In times like this, the last thing we need out there is misinformation. I asked her to prepare a short statement for the purpose of this update.I’ve pasted it below.”

This is an interesting statement in that no one from the school, school district, or the Public Health Department had spoken with the Cohoons on what the doctors had said and told the family. No one asked to see the documentation from doctors saying Amyiah most likely had caught the virus, and that circumstances had prevented the diagnosis from being confirmed.

We are somewhat amazed that the Cohoons, after all they had gone through and the total disrespect an educator had shown their daughter had not broken “social distancing” rules by having Meicher’s face walk into Mr. Cohoon’s fist.

Sheriff Konrath, for his part, later stated that Amyiah’s post was akin to “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” That is why he wanted the post taken down and threaten to charge and arrest people.

There are several problems with that. First and foremost, it is legal to shout “fire” in a theater if there is an actual fire. Secondly, it is legal to shout “fire” in a theater unless the person knows their words are a lie.

Here, Amyiah and her family had the words and documents from the doctors that had treated Amyiah saying they believed she had COVID-19. One must wonder the Sheriff thinks he knows more than the parents and more than the doctors who had treated Amyiah. Clearly Amyiah’s post were not lies, were not designed to create panic in the community and not an attempt for “attention.”

We don’t expect Sheriff’s to know every nuance of every law, but this is a clear case of a violation of the First Amendment rights of Amyiah.

The Sheriff’s order to delete the post under the threat of arrest is just insane.

Sergeant Klump simply offered the “Nuremberg Defense” saying he was just following orders and not caring about the legality of those orders.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) has taken up the Cohoon’s case.

On April 3, 2020, WILL sent a demand letter to Sheriff Konrath making a public records request under Wisconsin Stat. §§ 19.31-19.39 (Public Records Law) requesting emails, texts, and other documentation on this incident. WILL also requested the Sheriff make a written and public statement acknowledging the First Amendment violation. WILL gave the the Sheriff until April 7th to respond.

When the Sheriff failed to contact WILL, they filed a lawsuit (seen below) against the Sheriff and Sergeant Klump.

WILL and the Cohoons are seeking the following:

1. A declaration that Amyiah’s Instagram posts were speech protected by the First Amendment and that Defendants’ threats to cite Amyiah or her parents for disorderly conduct and arrest and jail them if Amyiah did not remove her posts violated Amyiah’s First Amendment rights;
2. A declaration that Defendants’ may not cite Amyiah or her parents for disorderly conduct (or any other crime), arrest them, jail them, or threaten any of the above, for exercising First Amendment rights, including on social media;
3. An injunction prohibiting Defendants from citing Amyiah or her parents for disorderly conduct (or any other crime), arresting them, jailing them, or threatening any of the above, for exercising First Amendment rights, including on social media;
4. Nominal damages; and
5. Such other relief as the Court deems proper.

That’s more than reasonable to us considering what they put the Cohoons through.

This case highlights something that people who watch and want to protect civil liberties are concerned with in this time of a “crisis.” The question is “in that the Constitution limits the power of the government, at what point has the power of the government crossed the line in stepping on people’s rights such as the First Amendment?”

Do people follow the directions of government officials simply because “they say so?”

It is a complex question, because of so many nuances, but we fear that with the COVID-19 crisis, there is a bit of a shift toward allowing government suppression of rights and citizens blindly accepting government actions. That’s not a good thing, in our opinion.

This case is lacking any nuance. The Sheriff had no legal right to demand the Cohoons delete the posts under threat of being fined, arrested, and locked up.

If there is a line in the legal sand, the Sheriff Konrath and Sergeant Klump crossed it.





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