NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A man is suing Dickson County District Attorney Ray Crouch and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director David Rausch and several others for $1 million, claiming they violated his constitutional rights.
The lawsuit stems from the arrest of a man who posted a controversial photograph that depicted someone urinating on the grave of fallen Dickson Police Sgt. Daniel Baker. Read the full lawsuit here.
Garton's attorney Daniel Horwitz issued the following statement on Twitter:
"There are actual consequences for flagrantly violating the First Amendment. Unfortunately, taxpayers will have to pay a significant penalty because District Attorney Ray Crouch, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the City of Dickson and their agents and employees are constitutionally illiterate. If they had any dignity or respect for the people that they are supposed to serve, District Attorney Ray Crouch, TBI Director David Rausch and all of the agents who participated in this despicable and unconstitutional malicious prosecution would resign. Law enforcement officials should uphold the law, rather than violate it."
Authorities arrested Joshua Andrew Garton, charging him with harassment. He spent two weeks in jail before the charge was dismissed for lack of probable cause. The same judge determined the post was not protected under free speech.
It turned out the photograph was a fake and was posted to Garton's private page but then shared by others. Garton's lawyers say they obtained an internal correspondence among the defendants admitting, "We violated Garton's First Amendment rights" to post online but did so because Sgt. Bakers' surviving family members have rights, too.
Garton is said to be disabled and suffers from mental illness. The lawsuit argues the arrest was part of malicious prosecution and violated his constitutional right to freedom of expression. NewsChannel5 legal analyst, Nick Leonardo says what makes this case so compelling are the records attached.
"Law enforcement in this case doesn't have the ability to say, well we didn't know that this was not a real photograph. The man sat in jail for more than a week and this lawsuit shows that they knew before they arrested him that this was a photoshopped image," Leonardo said.
Garton is suing the Dickson County District Attorney and TBI director and is asking for a jury trial. Others named in the lawsuit, include: TBI Deputy Director Bradley Nealon, TBI Special Agent in Charge Russell Winkler, TBI Assistant Director of Criminal Investigation Division Joshua Melton, TBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Joseph Craig, TBI Special Agent Andrew Vallee, Dickson Police Captain Donald Arnold and the City of Dickson.
"If you're the plaintiff's lawyer, you want 12 people from the general population to see the evidence they have and how overwhelming this is," Leonardo said.
NewsChannel 5 has reached out to those named as defendants in the suit for comment. TBI says they will not comment any further but to say they only investigate, what happens after is up to prosecutors. Dickson Police did not respond to our request for comment and District Attorney Crouch's office said they have no comment.