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Warner Todd Huston, The Western Journal


NextImg:Judge Turns Tables on Authorities, Allows Man to Sue Department That Raided Him over COVID Joke

In March of 2020, Facebook user Waylon Bailey was sitting in his house, blissfully ignorant that heavily armed members of the Rapides Parish, Louisiana, Sheriff’s Office were just about to pound down his door and arrest him for daring to make a joke about the COVID-19 pandemic on social media.

Now, more than three years later, a court has handed him a huge victory.

Bailey instantly went from a social media-using citizen joking about zombies and viruses to an accused criminal facing a 15-year prison term at the hands of these out-of-control officials.

The joke that sparked the SWAT-style raid on his home was an allusion to the 2013 film “World War Z,” in which government officials mowed down infected zombies with machine-gun fire.

The Louisiana man joked that the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office had told deputies to mow down “the infected” on sight, adding: “Lord have mercy on us all. #Covid9teen #weneedyoubradpitt,” according to Reason Magazine.

Soon after, RPSO Detective Randell Iles determined that the joke violated a state law (RS 14:40.1) against “terrorizing” the public. And on that claim, officers went to Bailey’s home and arrested him without a warrant, armed with weapons and wearing bullet-proof vests. They justified their act by claiming Bailey was a possible terrorist.

He was arrested and booked, bled of $1,200 for bond, and released later that day, the Washington Post reported. Ultimately, while Bailey sat home worrying for months, the state decided not to prosecute him and dropped the case. But he still felt compelled to delete all his social media to avoid the attacks — robbing him of his free speech — and lost friends who believed the initial reports that he was a nascent terrorist on the very of endangering the community.

He also says that he now fears the government and his local police alike.

Consequently, Bailey filed a lawsuit in September of 2020, claiming that Detective Iles and Sheriff Mark Wood violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights with the arrest, according to the Post.

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Bailey waited for two years before U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Louisiana David Joseph dismissed Bailey’s case, claiming that the police officers had “qualified immunity,” which shielded them from being held accountable.

Qualified immunity is meant to protect police officers from being arrested after performing their legal duties and helps prevent them from being charged by every last junkie or perp who thinks they’ve been wronged. It is not supposed to cover every infraction a police officer perpetrates while in uniform, but it does offer a lot of protection.

Bailey quickly filed an appeal.

Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has handed him a victory.

The court not only ruled that Bailey’s Facebook post was free speech, but that the sheriffs had no right to arrest him. The appeals court also ruled that nothing he wrote on Facebook amounted to any threats of violence.

“The post did not direct any person or group to take any unlawful action immediately or in the near future,” the judges added. ” … at worst, his post was a joke in poor taste, but it cannot be read as intentionally directed to incitement.”

The Post added that the judges wrote there “were no facts that would lead a reasonable person to believe that Bailey’s post caused sustained fear.” The ruling continued, saying, “No members of the public expressed any type of concern. Even if the post were taken seriously, it is too general and contingent to be a specific threat.”

Without a doubt, Bailey said that the appeals ruling was a “huge weight” off his shoulders.

“It was a really good feeling knowing that the superior judges thought it was silly, too,” Bailey said. “It just [reassured me about] all of the thoughts and stuff I had these past three years about if I’m overreacting, if it’s even worth it.”

Ben Field, Bailey’s attorney, celebrated the victory.

“It’s a great victory for Waylon and for the Constitution,” the attorney said. “It clearly lays out that police have to respect First Amendment rights online, and that they can’t wantonly arrest people who make jokes about them.”

Bailey feels vindicated, “I woke up with a much more blissful feeling knowing the right decision was made.”

What Bailey had to go through is all too typical of the abuse of power we are witnessing all across the nation. Americans — especially those who violate the left’s agenda — are finding out-of-control government operatives descending on too many of them, causing them to suffer steep financial burdens, societal ostracization and loss of freedom.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.