In two different parts of the Wisconsin, major constitutional overreaches have taken place — and both in the name of protecting people from the novel coronavirus.
Two sheriff’s deputies in Calumet County showed up at one woman’s home, accusing her of wrongfully “allowing” her young daughter to have a playdate with a nearby friend. The officers deemed her sin to be a violation of Wisconsin’s stay-at-home order, which Gov. Tony Evers (D) has extended until May 26.
And in a different locality, Oxford, a 16-year-old teenage girl was targeted by the sheriff’s department because she shared about her coronavirus-like symptoms on her personal Instagram account.
Amyiah Cohoon, a student at Westfield Area High School, had traveled in early March to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida for a spring break trip with a few of her classmates. Their vacation was cut short when coronavirus-related restrictions began shuttering businesses around the country.
Soon after she arrived back in Oxford, though, Cohoon said she began exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus, so she sought medical attention. At the time, the teenager was not tested for the virus. Instead, she was diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and her physician said her symptoms were “consistent with COVID-19,” the illness caused by the coronavirus.
So the high schooler went home and posted to Instagram, letting her friends and followers know she likely had COVID-19 and was self-quarantining for the mandated 14-day period. At one point, Cohoon’s symptoms worsened and she went to the hospital, where she was finally tested for the virus, and it came back negative.
Doctors told Cohoon she “likely had COVID-19 and had missed the window for testing positive,” the lawsuit stated.
The teenager posted once more about her experience with the coronavirus.
The day after she returned from the hospital, Patrol Sgt. Cameron Klump from the Marquette County Sheriff’s Department showed up at her doorstep, demanding the 16-year-old girl remove her Instagram posts immediately. He said the family was facing charges of disorderly conduct and, according to the suit, told the Cohoon family he would “start taking people to jail” unless the posts were deleted from Instagram.
Sheriff Joseph Konrath argued there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. In the lawsuit, however, Rick and Angela Cohoon said they “notified both the principal and band teacher” of their daughter’s school of her symptoms.
The Cohoons said they never received a response from school officials.
“Mr. Cohoon offered to show Sgt. Klump the documents they received from the doctors at Divine Savior [Healthcare] indicating that Amyiah’s symptoms were consistent with COVID-19, but Sgt. Klump stated that he was not there to gather information, but to complete Sheriff Konrath’s orders.”
After being threatened with arrest and jail time, Cohoon deleted her Instagram posts.
Later that evening, the Cohoon family found out that an administrator at the school had sent out an alert to other families, accusing the younger Cohoon of lying about her symptoms and her illness and telling recipients there was “NO truth” to her Instagram posts.
“This was a foolish means to get attention and the source of the rumor has been addressed,” the school’s message read. “This rumor had caught the attention of our Public Health Department and she was involved in putting a stop to this nonsense.”
The Cohoons have since contacted the Wisconsin Institute of Law and Liberty and are suing both Konrath and Klump in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, claiming the sheriff and his deputy violated their daughter’s constitutional rights.
Nevertheless, the sheriff’s department is not backing down. Sam Hall, an attorney representing the sheriff, said Cohoon “caused distress and panic,” equating the Instagram posts to “screaming fire in a crowded theater.”
He went on to say the sheriff plans to “mount an aggressive defense” against the Cohoon family, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Luke Berg, the lawyer representing the Cohoons, said, “There is no circumstances that would allow law enforcement to police social media in this way. At a moment when civil liberties need to be guarded most, the Marquette County Sheriff must be held accountable.”