SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones and two local activists have reached a settlement in a dispute over free speech on social media.
A U.S. district court ruled that Jones violated the Constitution when he banned activists Tanya Faison and Sonia Lewis from commenting on his official Sheriff Scott Jones Facebook page.
The terms of the settlement require the sheriff to establish a social media policy that protects free speech rights for the public.
Sacramento County has agreed to pay $16,000 to each of the two plaintiffs and to cover their legal fees.
“Sheriff Scott Jones owes the taxpayers of this county access, accountability, and transparency,” Lewis, from the Liberation Collective for Black Sacramento, said in a statement. “Blocking constituents from the Sheriff’s social media page is a clear abuse of power, and I am appreciative of the ACLU for helping us fight his attempt to disenfranchise certain members of our community. This lawsuit is a victory, and I hope it sends a clear message to Jones that he serves the people, not the other way around.”
Sheriff Jones has also agreed to remove bans on other activists on his Facebook page.
The sheriff released the following statement on the settlement Thursday:
While I still maintain that my personal Facebook page is intended and used for purely personal and political purposes and feel like I could have successfully defended this lawsuit, there were several factors that went into my decision to settle; the Covid-19 pandemic potentially pushing out a trial date several years, the uncertainty in contemporary case law, saving the cost of a protracted discovery and trial process, and the relatively low nuisance-value amount going to each plaintiff. I will continue to use my page as before—as a platform to deliver information, opinions, and political news to the public and my 11,000+ followers.Scott Jones, Sacramento County Sheriff