GOP state lawmaker pays $20K in settlement after blocking citizen on Facebook

An Ohio state senator on Wednesday agreed to pay $20,000 in a lawsuit settlement after a constituent accused him of illegally blocking him on Facebook. 

Joe Uecker, a Republican, would not admit guilt as part of the agreement, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer. He also denied that he violated an Ohio resident's free speech rights.

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But the Enquirer noted that the agreement stipulates that Uecker cannot block Anthony Fambry from his Facebook page in the future unless Fambry posts something that could be interpreted as a threat or harassment.

The settlement between Uecker and Fambry was reached just weeks after Fambry filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati alleging that the senator illegally blocked him from his official Facebook page.

Fambry accused Uecker of violating his First Amendment rights by banning him from a Facebook page and deleting his comments about the senator's support of a controversial abortion ban. 

Uecker unblocked Fambry just hours after the lawsuit was filed, The Enquirer reported. 

"The message is simple: Public servants can't silence us," Fambry said after the settlement was reached. "Just because they don't like what we say, they can't silence us."

Ohio Senate GOP spokesman John Fortney told the newspaper that the matter was resolved immediately after Uecker unblocked Fambry. 

"As always, there are multiple ways for Ohioans to communicate with the General Assembly and we look forward to hearing from them," Fortney said.

Uecker will pay $20,000 in damages and attorney fees, The Enquirer noted.

The case involving a state senator's handling of Facebook was the first of its kind in Ohio. 

A federal appeals court ruled in January that a Virginia politician violated the Constitution by blocking an individual from viewing her Facebook page. The decision marked the first time the subject was heard at the federal appellate level.

President Trump is involved in a similar case. He has asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan to overturn a ruling from last year where a judge said that the president could not block critics from his personal Twitter account.

The Justice Department has argued that the ruling was “fundamentally misconceived."