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CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge ruled Wednesday that a Cedar Rapids man’s “derogatory” message sent to a prosecutor, which was the basis for a harassment charge, was protected speech because she is a public official and it was directed to her job performance.
The Facebook message sent by Marcus DeVore to Assistant Linn County Attorney Monica Slaughter on Dec. 22, 2021 focused mostly on her job performance, Sixth Judicial Associate District Judge Casey Jones said in his ruling. Jones agreed with DeVore’s argument on Monday that the message qualified as protected speech.
A prosecutor is similar to a state trooper because they both deal with the public regarding enforcement of laws and must “exercise a higher degree of restraint in the face of injurious and offensive language,” according to the law cited by Eric Tindal, DeVore’s lawyer, during a hearing Monday.
Tindal argued this was constitutionally protected political speech because it focused on job performance and doesn’t contain a “true threat” or “fighting words.” Tindal said DeVore had a legitimate purpose in sending that message — it was a critique of Slaughter’s work.
DeVore made the comments in regard to Slaughter’s actions or performance in the second-degree murder trial of his friend, Drew Blahnik, now known as Johnny Blahnik Church, who was convicted of killing Chris Bagley in 2018.
A message, like a letter, can also be ignored and would allow the person reading the message time to “cool down before confronting the sender,” according to the ruling. This message to Slaughter was “far less offensive” than the other messages the prosecution used for context leading up to the Dec. 22 message.
Jones dismissed the charge because the Dec. 22 message, which he found as protected speech, didn’t support the harassment charge.
However, Jones did point out that he made no ruling on the “uncharged” messages sent from Dec. 11 and 12, 2021 because those contained some of the “most vile words and sentiments in the English language.”
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