Petty Facebook drama can be uncomfortable and a little tacky but generally speaking, no one’s really worried about going to jail over it.
That is, until Anne King and a friend found themselves behind bars for a few hours in 2015 after bad-mouthing King’s ex-husband, a sheriff’s deputy in Washington County, Georgia, on Facebook. Now King is suing her ex and his colleague for violating her constitutional rights.
A short Facebook tiff results in jail time
The whole thing began in January 2015, when Anne King posted a short Facebook status expressing frustration that her ex, Corey King, refused to drop off some medication for their children on his way to work.
“That moment when everyone in your house has the flu and you ask your kid’s dad to get them (not me) more Motrin and Tylenol and he refuses,” she wrote, adding an “overwhelmed” face to the post.
Some of her friends chimed in, including Susan Hines, who referred to Corey King as a “POS,” saying, “Give me an hour and check your mailbox. I’ll be GLAD to pick up the slack.”
According to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Anne King, her ex-husband told her to take the post down. When she initially refused, he posted a screenshot on his own Facebook account.
The ex-husband then filed an incident report and, according to his own admission, requested an arrest warrant because of her “derogatory statements.”
The arrest warrant, as noted in the complaint, said: The “subject did, without a privilege to do so and with intent to defame another, communicate false matter which tends to expose one who is alive to hatred, contempt, or ridicule, and which tends to provoke a breach of peace.”
The next day, a Washington County court magistrate issued warrants for both Anne King and Hines.
The women were charged with “criminal defamation of character,” processed and spent about four hours in jail before posting $1,000 bail.
At their hearing, state-court judge stated there was no basis for the arrest and the case was dropped.
“I don’t even know why we’re here,” the judge said, according to the complaint.
Fast foward to the lawsuit Anne King has now filed. Initially, she also named Washington County as a defendant, but since the case has gone to federal court the county has immunity under the 11th Amendment.
Anne King’s friend Hines told CNN affiliate WRDW she was initially a plaintiff in the suit, but dropped out of it to minimize friction in her small community.
An outdated law
As if the details of the case weren’t dramatic enough, the suit against Corey King alleges he relied on an outdated Georgia law to go through with his ex-wife’s arrest. According to a 1982 Georgia Supreme Court decision, charging someone with criminal defamation is actually unconstitutional.
“We feel very good about our position because the law upon which [King] was arrested had been declared unconstitutional 30 years ago,” attorney Ken Hodges, who is representing Anne King, told CNN.
CNN was unable to reach Corey King or his lawyer for comment.
But in a deposition, he said, “I don’t feel as though the portrayal of my fatherhood was truthful as what I do for my children and what I have done for my children as long as they have been alive.”
The AJC also reports Corey King claimed he and another defendant in the suit were not ultimately responsible for Anne King’s arrest, and that responsibility fell to Magistrate Judge Ralph Todd. Todd said in a deposition that “nobody ever notified” him the charge “didn’t have any validity.”
The case is before a federal judge who will decide whether it will go to trial. Hodges says he hopes the court will “hold those accountable who are going to use their positions of power over those who have no power.”
Anne King is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as compensation for all legal fees.
“The ironic thing is, she didn’t even post anything derogatory,” Hodges said. “She just posted that she was feeling overwhelmed.”