Woman charged after gripe about ex on Facebook gets justice
TENNILLE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia woman who was criminally charged after complaining about her ex-husband on Facebook said she feels like she’s finally gotten justice.
Anne King posted in 2015: “That moment when everyone in your house has the flu and you ask your kid’s dad to get them (not me) more Motrin and Tylenol and he refuses.”
She removed the post after her ex-husband, Corey King, complained, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported . But he’s a Washington County sheriff’s deputy and felt so “disrespected,” according to court documents, that he got a colleague, Capt. Trey Burgamy, to swear an affidavit for his ex-wife’s arrest.
A few days after the post, Anne King found herself in front of judge, facing a charge of criminal defamation.
“I was terrified,” Anne King told the newspaper. “I couldn’t believe I could be going to jail for something I said.”
Magistrate Judge Ralph Todd told her she had defamed her ex-husband’s character and ordered her not to contact him for any reason. She spent three hours in jail before posting $1,000 bond.
Ed Tolley, who until June was chairman of Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission, which investigates ethics complaints against judges and recommends disciplinary action if needed, said the action against Anne King was a “blatant abuse of power.”
“I was so agitated because I knew it was not a crime,” he told the newspaper.
The charge of criminal defamation was ruled unconstitutional in 1982, Tolley said.
“If people can be arrested for a criticism of an ex-husband on social media, then you have what amounts to a totalitarian state,” said Cynthia Counts, a First Amendment attorney who’s one of King’s lawyers.
The case landed before State Court Judge John Dana. At a hearing, prosecutor Robert Wynn told the court, “just because something is legal does not make it right.”
“I don’t even know why we’re here,” Dana said, according to court documents.
Wynn ultimately agreed to drop the case.
But Anne King said she wanted to send a message. She sued Washington County, the sheriff’s office, Burgamy and her ex-husband.
Meanwhile, the Judicial Qualifications Commission began investigating Todd, who ended up resigning.
Last week, Anne King received a $100,000 settlement and an apology.
“There were plenty of times I thought to myself I should just end this,” she told the Journal-Constitution. “But I wasn’t going to back down and let them win.”
The apology, which she posted on Facebook, reads: “We apologize for the pain caused and time wasted including Ms. King being charged and arrested with respect to what was really a personal dispute that should have ended without the involvement of the courts.”