Today the ACLU of Louisiana filed suit against the City of Mamou, Louisiana, on behalf of a man who was arrested for contacting the media about official misconduct. Bobby Simmons, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, served 27 years as a police officer in Franklin and Abbeville. Last May, Mr. Simmons contacted media outlets and inquired into coverage of Mamou police chief Greg Dupuis' improper conduct. Within days, Mr. Simmons was arrested and charged with "criminal defamation." Simmons, who suffers from a terminal lung disease, was denied food, water, and access to his essential medications during his ten hours in custody. He repeatedly asked for medication and was denied. His wife made attempts to bond him out and was denied. It was only when Simmons requested an ambulance because he could not breathe that he was released on bond.
ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie R. Esman said: "Honest and open government means that people must have the right to speak out when they believe officials are engaged in wrongdoing. Reporting public misconduct must be protected, not punished. Bobby Simmons was treated like a criminal for contacting a newspaper. If our Constitutional protections mean anything, they must protect honest people who simply report facts that come to their attention."
Upon arresting Mr. Simmons, Chief Dupuis offered a reward for the capture of anyone else "spreading rumors" about him.
ACLU Legal Director Katie Schwartzmann said, "This is the kind of thing you would expect in China, but not the United States of America. Mr. Simmons may have offended or upset Chief Dupuis, but Mr. Simmons has a right to freedom of speech, especially when he is talking about a public figure like Chief Dupuis. The police chief cannot be allowed to arrest his critics in an attempt to silence them."
The lawsuit, Simmons v. City of Mamou, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. Mr. Simmons is represented by ACLU legal director Katie Schwartzmann and cooperating attorney David Benoit of Breaux Bridge.