The Star Tribune is reporting that Diamond Reynolds, who livestreamed the aftermath of the July 2016 officer-involved shooting death of her boyfriend, is suing a Rice County deputy for defamation.
In the suit, which isn’t yet available through the Minnesota Courts Public Access System, Reynolds reportedly alleges that tweets McBroom made about her and an $800,000 settlement she received following the shooting death of her boyfriend Philando Castile were defamatory, false and racially motivated. Reynolds is black.
The apparent suit comes just weeks after a Third District Court judge affirmed an arbitrator’s finding that Rice County was justified in demoting McBroom for the tweets which were made while he was off duty.
In November 2017, McBroom tweeted that Reynolds needs to “come off county and state aid now that she has some cash. It’ll probably be gone in six months on crack cocaine.” Later that day, in response to a question about his stance, McBroom said was of that opinion because of “history.” Reynolds has no criminal history of drug use, though there are videos of her smoking marijuana.
At the time, McBroom was a member of the Elysian City Council. He has since been elected mayor.
City Pages first reported the now-deleted tweets. A reporter at the publication contacted McBroom, who initially denied that he was a law enforcement officer. He later admitted authoring the posts, but only to “screw” with the reporter. He also denied that his comments had anything to do with race.
McBroom was demoted and given a pay cut the following February for violating Rice County Sheriff’s Office policy related to the tweets. An arbitrator upheld the punishment, but McBroom sued the county, saying it was was out of line given his clean record over 12 years with the Sheriff’s Office. He also argued that he shouldn’t be penalized for exercising his First Amendment rights.
Judge Carol Hanks noted that not all speech is protected, and that the Sheriff’s Office has the right to restrict some speech of its employees.
“This court’s decision does not suggest appellant is not entitled to his own opinions and beliefs,” Hanks wrote. “However, the manner and context in which those opinions are communicated is not afforded unlimited protection by the First Amendment.”