- Associated Press - Friday, April 15, 2016

MERIDIAN, Idaho (AP) - An Idaho man initially charged with felony witness intimidation based on a Facebook post has filed a federal lawsuit against the Meridian Police Department contending his right to free speech was violated.

The Idaho Statesman reports (https://bit.ly/1VWXkAq ) that gun rights advocate Matthew Townsend filed the lawsuit Tuesday.

Townsend expressed frustration over a misdemeanor arrest in a 2015 Facebook post and tagged the Meridian police department and the family of the officer who arrested him, saying he knew where they lived.

He was then charged with felony witness intimidation but later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor resisting and obstructing as part of a deal following a mistrial on the felony charge.

“Mr. Townsend believes that his right to free speech has been suppressed and/or chilled,” the suit says.

Named in the lawsuit are Meridian Police Deputy Chief Tracy Basterrechea and Officer Shannon Taylor. Basterrechea managed the department’s Facebook account and he asked Taylor to investigate.

Meridian officials on Friday said they hadn’t been served with the lawsuit and declined to comment.

Authorities say a Meridian police officer in early 2015 arrested Townsend on a charge of resisting and obstructing officers. Police reported observing Townsend block traffic in a crosswalk while dressed as the Grim Reaper during a protest about taxes.

In a March 18, 2015, Facebook post, Townsend gave authorities three options, the first a demand that the charges be dropped.

“I know where you all live - this is notification of knowledge and future protests, not a threat,” he wrote.

Other options, he wrote, were to “Endure my non-violent retaliation (do you want to be the focus of my rage?)” and “Kill me and deal with those that know, love and care about me.”

Townsend has also filed a complaint with the Idaho State Bar concerning prosecutors who handled the case asking that they be sanctioned for “a year of frivolous persecution” against him.

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Information from: Idaho Statesman, https://www.idahostatesman.com


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