Arrested for a joke on Facebook, won suit for $205k

Waylon Bailey | Institute for Justice
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On a Friday in March 2020, a dozen or so sheriff’s deputies wearing bulletproof vests descended upon Waylon Bailey’s garage at his home in Forest Hill, Louisiana, with their guns drawn, ordered him onto his knees with his hands “on your fucking head,” and arrested him for a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The SWAT-style raid was provoked by a Facebook post in which Bailey had made a zombie-themed joke about COVID-19. Recognizing the harm inflicted by that flagrantly unconstitutional arrest, a federal jury last week awarded Bailey $205,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

“I feel vindicated that the jury agreed that my post was satire and that no reasonable police officer should have arrested me for my speech,” Bailey said in a press release from the Institute for Justice, which helped represent him in his lawsuit against the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office and Detective Randell Iles, who led the investigation that tarred Bailey as a terrorist based on constitutionally protected speech. “This verdict is a clear signal that the government can’t just arrest someone because the officers didn’t like what they said.”


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Chuck comes from a lineage of journalism. He has written for some of the webs most popular news sites. He enjoys spending time outdoors, bull riding, and collecting old vinyl records. Roll Tide!