Man Arrested for Facebook Joke Receives $205,000 in Damages

In March 2020, Waylon Bailey, a Forest Hill, Louisiana resident, was arrested by the RPSO for a Facebook post related to COVID-19. The post was a satirical reference to the movie World War Z, but the RPSO took it as a serious threat. Bailey was arrested and held for terrorism but was later awarded $205,000 in damages for a false arrest. In the ruling, the jury found that the post was not a genuine threat and that the RPSO’s actions were unconstitutional. Bailey’s rights to free speech were violated and the “realistic false alarm” situation had not been met. Bailey’s lawsuit, represented by the Institute of Justice, ultimately triumphed and showed that constitutionally-protected speech cannot be a basis for arrest. Bailey’s rights were upheld, and the ruling demonstrates that the government cannot act arbitrarily against its citizens.