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Wisconsin high schooler wins lawsuit against sheriff over COVID-19 social media post

A Wisconsin high schooler on Friday won her lawsuit against a sheriff's deputy who allegedly threatened her with arrest if she did not take down several social media posts related to COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig ruled that Amiyah Cohoon's free speech rights had been violated when a Marquette County deputy said she needed to remove posts saying she had COVID-19 or face possible prison time, The Associated Press reported.

"Demanding a 16-year-old remove protected speech from her Instagram account is a First Amendment violation," Ludwig, a Trump appointee, said in his ruling.

Cohoon in spring 2020 said on Instagram that she had COVID-19. In one of the posts she was shown with what looked like an oxygen mask in a hospital bed, writing, "Winning the fight with Covid-19," according to the news outlet.

"i wont be back for a while longer due to me ... having the COVID-19 virus. ... I dont want the attention it's just the truth," Cohoon said in a separate post, on March 26, 2020.

According to Cohoon's lawsuit, she had tested negative for COVID-19 after displaying symptoms similar to the coronavirus. Her family was told by physicians that she was probably ill despite missing the normal timeframe for returning a positive COVID-19 test, a lawyer for Cohoon said, the AP reported.

According to the Wisconsin Institute for Liberty and Law, representing Cohoon in the lawsuit, a "Marquette County Patrol Sergeant was dispatched to the Cohoon's home to demand Amyiah remove the Instagram posts or face arrest for disorderly conduct."

Around the time the lawsuit was filed by Cohoon, a lawyer representing the Marquette County Sheriff's Department and sheriff, Samuel Hall, said that her posts "caused distress and panic within the school system and law enforcement acted at the request of school health officials in a good faith effort to avoid unfounded panic," according to the AP.

However, Cohoon's lawyer Luke Berg argued on Friday in a statement after the ruling that "law enforcement has no business trying to regulate the social media posts of local teenagers."

The Hill has reached out to Hall for comment.

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