CRIME

West Virginia ACLU files lawsuit over Facebook post arrest

A West Virginia man has sued state and county officials saying they violated his First Amendment rights after he was arrested for a Facebook post that officials contended was a terroristic threat.

The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia filed a lawsuit Friday on behalf of David Jones, saying state police and the Hancock County prosecutor's office wrongfully arrested and pursued prosecution against him in 2015, news outlets reported.

The lawsuit says Jones was arrested without a warrant and held for nearly a month with bail set at a high amount for a post criticizing county officials that read, "I will hunt them down and put a bullet in their head (if) ANYTHING drug related ever happens to either of my girls." He was charged with making terroristic threats.

The initial criminal complaint repeated the wording of Jones' post and said it constituted a threat.

The lawsuit names West Virginia State Police Trooper Michael White, Hancock County Prosecutor Jim Davis and assistant prosecutor Jack Wood as defendants.

The lawsuit says the state voluntarily dismissed the initial case against Jones, but he remained in custody because White, the arresting officer, was preparing new complaints. Jones was then charged with two counts of retaliation against a public official following criminal complaints regarding Facebook posts from 2014.

One of the posts said Hancock County Circuit Judge Martin Gaughan "feels sympathetic to heroin users" and continued, "Go to the (judge's) home and take what you want, trash the place and terrorize HIS family. He is okay with it."

Wood said during the preliminary hearing that the state did not have evidence of harm occurring as a result of Jones' posts or that Jones engaged in any conduct outside the posts.

The criminal case against Jones was dismissed in 2016.