A Georgia woman who was arrested and placed in solitary confinement for cursing at police officers was awarded a $100,000 settlement this week in federal court.
Police in Cobb County, Georgia arrested Amanda Barnes, a local political activist, in April 2012 after she flashed the middle finger and said "fuck the police" and "Cobb police suck," while she cycled past officers as they questioned a suspect outside of a convenience store, My Fox Atlanta and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The cops then followed Barnes to a nearby grocery store, where she was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and attempting to "incite an immediate breach of the peace." She ended up spending more than a day in jail, including six hours in solitary confinement.
"She could have been given a citation, but she was arrested, put in solitary confinement, for part of it, and she was in jail for over 24 hours," Barnes' lawyer, Cynthia Counts, told My Fox Atlanta. Counts did not immediately return VICE News' calls requesting comment.
Barnes filed a lawsuit, claiming the county violated her First Amendment rights.
On Tuesday, the Cobb County Board of Commissioners authorized a $100,000 settlement in the case, spokesman Robert Quigley said. The criminal charges against Barnes were dismissed last year. Police alleged she offended "little kids" nearby who overheard her swearing.
"You see the little kids on the corner you think they care to hear your language," the police told Barnes in a video of the incident.
The federal judge in the case said Barnes' "fuck the police" statement "was a fleeting epithet that was insulting and inappropriate, but it did not create an immediate threat and danger of violence."
"It's important to understand that people have a right to express their ideas, and no matter how offensive, it's not a basis for penalizing someone," Counts said of the settlement. "And that's just wrong, it violates the First Amendment."
Barnes, however, still faces legal troubles in Cobb County. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, she currently faces charges of deprivation of a minor, reckless conduct, and cruelty to animals from an arrest in 2013. Barnes was arrested when her two young children were found playing unsupervised three blocks away from her home. In a subsequent search of Barnes' residence, police found squalid conditions and exposed electrical wires, according to an arrest warrant cited by the Journal-Constitution. Police also said they found a German shepherd in the home that had a skin infection and was in need of veterinary care.
Follow Meredith Hoffman on Twitter: @merhoffman
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