COLUMBIA, TN – The EdItor of The Daily Herald newspaper in Columbia, Tennessee published the following article on Sunday, December 11, 2016:
James Bennett column: Sheriff Rowland responds to lawsuit in First Amendment flap
By JAMES BENNETT firstname.lastname@example.org
“Maury County Sheriff Bucky Rowland, responding to a lawsuit filed against him in federal court, says he did not violate a protester’s First and 14th Amendment rights during a Maury County horse show in June and asks for dismissal of the suit.
Clant Seay of the Citizens Against Big Lick Animal Cruelty sued Rowland in August, accusing the sheriff of forcing him to turn off video recordings of the event at the Maury County Park at the request of show manager David Sisk. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech. The 14th Amendment provides equal protection under the law to all citizens.
“Defendant [Rowland] admits that on June 3, 2016, he was approached by David Sisk, the show manager, and another gentleman, who defendant now believes to be Jerry Harris, and informed that the copyrights to the horse show had been purchased by the gentleman defendant now believes to be Jerry Harris,” the response filed by Nashville law firm Dickinson Wright said. “Defendant denies that he conspired with anyone and further denies that he intimidated, threatened, or interfered with the plaintiff [Seay] or any of the other advocates at the Columbia Spring Jubilee Horse Show in the exercise of their First Amendment rights.
“Defendant admits that he advised the plaintiff that it was his understanding that the copyrights to the horse show had been purchased and that reproduction of the plaintiff’s video footage could potentially expose the plaintiff to a civil suit or criminal penalties,” the response continued.
Seay recorded the conversation with Rowland and said the sheriff’s request was “chilling and shocking.” In his response, the sheriff says his instructions contained no threats.
“An objective, reasonable person would not have found that Sheriff Rowland’s words, which were not accompanied by an implicit threat of arrest or citation, had a chilling effect or otherwise deterred speech,” the response said.
Seay’s original complaint said Rowland impeded on his rights as a journalist. Seay writes a blog on billygoboy.com.
“I like Sheriff Bucky Rowland,” Seay said. “I respect the good things that he and his Maury County deputies did to protect our animal welfare advocates at the 2016 Columbia Spring Jubilee Horse Show. That being said, our Constitution is sacred. No one is above the law. It was a chilling and shocking experience to have Sheriff Rowland to come down and tell citizens to turn off their video cameras in a public park. After considerable deliberation, I filed this lawsuit. It alleges Sheriff Rowland’s wrong doing, and this lawsuit will be tried in the courtroom, not the newspaper.”
Seay said he wonders whether Rowland was in a conspiracy with show organizers to keep his group from videotaping inside the Spring Jubilee. Seay and other protesters bought tickets and took their cameras inside, hoping to document what happens to Tennessee Walking Horses before and during events.
“I don’t know if there was a conspiracy behind what Sheriff Rowland did on June 3, 2016, but I can tell you that we are going to do everything possible and necessary to find out if there was one,” Seay said. “There are powerful, wealthy politically connected people who are addicted to ‘Big Lick’ animal cruelty to Tennessee Walking Horses. They see nothing wrong with it, and they do not want citizens taking and posting videos of ‘Big Lick’ Tennessee Walking horses in the show ring because the public then condemns it.”
The Big Lick is a phase attached to the gait of Walking Horses. Animal welfare advocates allege some trainers torture their horses with an illegal tactic called soring, applying harsh chemicals to horses’ legs and hooves. The higher the horse’s gait, the more it impresses judges.
“Many of the ‘Big Lick’ horses in these videos are struggling and in apparent distress.” Seay said. “One recent video captured the 2016 World Grand Champion Tennessee Walking Horse, ‘Honors,’ pathetically struggling to canter while being exhibited in Asheville, N.C.,” Seay said.
A member of Seay’s group had a run-in with a horseman during a July 2015 at Maury County Park. Trainer Jamie Lawrence of Vinemont, Ala., was convicted of assaulting 58-year-old protester Teresa Bippen by a jury Feb. 3. Lawrence turned his truck toward protesters, feigning as though he was going to run them over, as he entered Maury County Park.
James Bennett is editor of The Daily Herald. Contact him at email@example.com.”