'Wrongful' Kentucky arrest over song lyric in Facebook post gets man $60,000 settlement

A federal lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky on behalf of James Evans against Muhlenberg County Police Department Officer Mike Drake and Muhlenberg County Fiscal Court has been resolved with a $60,000 settlement.

Evans was charged with first-degree terroristic threatening in August 2014 after posting song lyrics from heavy metal band Exodus on his Facebook profile. The lyrics were from a song written about the 2007 Virginia Tech University shootings called “Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer).”

After officers from several departments interviewed him about the posting, no arrest was made after determining the post was lyrics, which the man had done several times prior. However, days later, Drake – a school resource officer and the only member of the MCPD – filed an arrest affidavit and obtained a warrant.

Evans was arrested on Aug. 26 at his workplace and charged with first-degree terroristic threatening, a Class C felony. He could not make the $1,000 bond and remained in jail until Sept. 3, when he was released on his own recognizance and ordered to return to court in October.

The charge was dropped at a pre-trial conference on Oct. 27.

Evans fully cooperated at all points in the investigation, according to the ACLU.

The settlement ends the case in federal court.

“Mr. Evans believes this settlement is a fair resolution of his claims, and that it reflects the seriousness of what he suffered for being wrongfully arrested and detained for engaging in protected online speech,” said William Sharp, ACLU of Kentucky Legal Director. “The ACLU of Kentucky hopes that today’s judgment and significant financial settlement will deter government officials in Kentucky from future violations of individuals’ online speech rights.”

ACLU of Kentucky Cooperating Attorney Brenda Popplewell and Sharp represented Evans.