Sheriff Clarke set to stand trial for “snowflake” comment

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Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke Jr. is facing trial on Jan. 22 for calling a man a “snowflake” on Facebook.

The case has evolved from an incident that occurred a year ago, on Jan. 15, 2017, on a flight from Dallas to Milwaukee. Another passenger, Daniel Black, saw Clark wearing Dallas Cowboys apparel and asked him if he was David Clarke.

When Clark confirmed that he was, Black reportedly shook his head and walked on to his seat in coach class. After the plane landed, six sheriff’s deputies showed up, questioned Black and escorted him from the airport.

USA Today reported:

Black later posted on social media about the incident and filed a complaint with the county. Clarke responded on social media by calling Black a “Snowflake.” 

The next month, Black sued Clarke and the six deputies, claiming violations of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure, retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights by having him stopped at the airport and the subsequent mockery on Facebook, and his due process rights under the 14th Amendment. The suit also sought to have the county held liable for Clarke’s actions.

In Friday’s 27-page order, U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller granted summary judgment to Clarke on the Fourth and one of the First amendment claims, dismissed the 14th Amendment claim as “completely without merit” and dismissed the claim against the county and the six deputies, all originally identified as John Doe.

“While Clarke’s actions reflect poor judgment, they do not shock the conscience,” to a degree to support the due-process claim, Stadtmueller ruled.

He also found that Black’s 15-minute discussion with deputies was not a seizure since they never drew their guns, used friendly language and weren’t expecting to arrest or cite Black.

The only part of Black’s lawsuit that has survived is his claim that his First Amendment right for shaking his head was violated, by Clark retaliating on Facebook and calling him a “snowflake.”

The judge said a jury should decide whether Clarke’s reaction on Facebook was the kind of threat or intimidation that amounted to retaliation against Black. One post read, “Cheer up, snowflake … if Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it.”

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