MILWAUKEE -- Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is getting sued, but he wasn't in federal court for the case on Monday, Jan. 22. Dan Black told a jury Monday he was so traumatized by the incident that he wants therapy because of Clarke's actions. The jury ultimately determined former Sheriff Clarke did not violate Black's civil rights with his social media postings after an airport dispute last year.
Black, 25, said Monday in federal court he's been threatened and terrorized since the incident.
Black sued the sheriff for having deputies detain him and question him at Milwaukee's airport, but Clarke's taunting social media posts were the focus of the case.
Clarke and Black were boarding a flight from Dallas to Milwaukee on Jan. 15, 2017 — the day Clarke's beloved Dallas Cowboys were facing the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs. The sheriff was clad in Dallas gear without his trademark cowboy hat and Black said he didn't immediately recognize him because of that. He asked Clarke if he was Milwaukee's sheriff, according to his lawsuit, and when Clarke said yes, Black shook his head disapprovingly.
Black said he made the gesture because Clarke was supporting a rival team. Clarke, who attracts controversy because of his provocative and brash personality, didn't see the gesture as harmless and asked deputies to meet Black at the airport and question him.
Black said deputies questioned him for about 15 minutes but didn't cite or arrest him. When Black publicized the encounter and filed his lawsuit, Clarke responded with a series of Facebook posts. Clarke said at the time he "reserves the reasonable right to pre-empt a possible assault," and also posted that the next time someone pulled the same "stunt on a plane they may get knocked out." Later, making fun of Black, Clarke wrote on Facebook: "Cheer up, snowflake ... if Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn't be around to whine about it."
Black said in federal court Monday if you Google his name, the above meme will pop up. The question for a jury is whether the post on a government site and another the day before fly in the face of Black having the right to file complaints about a government official and go against Black's First Amendment rights.
Clarke's lawyer pointed out that Black himself took to Twitter after the incident, posting comments and retweeting the meme that frightened him.
Black took the stand, telling jurors he was terrorized by the posts and he needs to go to therapy. He said "this whole thing has been ridiculous to me. It's been a nightmare. I wish it never happened."
Clarke's lawyer said the incident was just a spat between two men, but Black's lawyer said it was much more -- having a chilling effect on anyone who thinks of complaining about a government official.