I figured all along that cyber-stalking charges would not be filed against Kasey Helton. She’s the Marion Township woman who called out on social media the anti-mask health-care workers she says spread misinformation at a recent school board meeting. Despite what I and a lot of other people thought — Helton included, after hearing from her attorney yesterday — Prosecutor David Reader says the case is still under investigation.
In the interest of full transparency, I know Helton pretty well: she was a reporter at the local newspaper for a number of years, and I was her editor.
In a recent post, I dubbed this affair “Butthurt-Gate,” and wrote that it “had it all”: “(P)olitical intrigue; trolling the conservatives; owning the libs; good ole Republican snowflakes; and, of course, the pandemic.
Because the case “had it all” — and because it appears to be a case of free speech, not cyber-stalking — it gained great traction on social media and in news outlets across the country.
So, when I read that Helton’s attorney informed her that no charges would be filed, I figured it was over. But apparently I am wrong; Prosecutor David Reader told WHMI that the case is still “under investigation.”
Despite what Reader said to WHMI today, I still doubt he’ll charge. And it’s not because I am a legal genius (I am not), or because I have any special information (I do not): It’s because I believe the past is predictive of the future.
Reader has not yet issued any charges in the case of the woman who tweeted in May 2020 that Howell should burn. (You can read all our coverage of that tweet by clicking here.)
That tweet became issue No. 1 in the contentious and nasty August 2020 GOP primary in which Reader knocked out incumbent Prosecutor William Vailliencourt. Reader’s campaign blasted Vailliencourt for not charging the tweeter with terrorism. So, here we are — 18 months since the tweet, with the primary and general elections over, and the new prosecutor in office for nearly a year — and Reader has yet to issue a charge.
Reader also declined to charge a member of the Brighton Area Schools Board of Education for intentionally coughing on a mask advocate at a contentious meeting.
Here, Helton didn’t threaten anyone with violence. She didn’t intentionally spread germs on someone who clearly didn’t want them. All she did was use social media to correct and criticize public comments made at a public meeting by speakers who use their health-care credentials to bolster their claims. Oh, and she tagged the employers of the anti-mask health-care workers in her posts. Someone “felt threatened” over that? And this is the case that our prosecutor is still mulling over?
This wouldn’t be as frightening to those of us who rely on the First Amendment if it were some minor case, but make no mistake: if found guilty of this charge — which is a FELONY — Helton could face up to FIVE YEARS behind bars.
The charges were referred by Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy. You can read all about that by clicking here.
What is hard to ignore in all this is the cast of characters. First is Helton, a blunt, highly outspoken, ultra-liberal woman who is a persistently loud (and sometimes crude) thorn in the side of Livingston County’s GOP elite (click here to read more). And, perhaps not so coincidentally, Helton ran against the former sheriff (and former boss of the current sheriff) for a seat on the Livingston County Board of Commissioners. Then there is our sheriff, who is a former chair of the Livingston GOP, and who has been consistently and proudly public about not enforcing COVID mandates. And, finally, there is our prosecutor, whose campaign criticized his predecessor for NOT charging a woman over her tweet that said Howell should “burn.”
I’ll say this much: These are ingredients for something interesting, for sure.
Add in that on Dec. 28, Helton shared on social media that she had been informed by her attorney that Prosecutor Reader declined to issue charges on the criminal referral from Sheriff Murphy.
Here’s what Helton posted on Dec. 28:
UPDATE: This evening I was notified by my attorney that the Livingston County prosecutor’s office WILL NOT seek felony charges for a dubious (nicest word I can think of to describe it) criminal complaint brought against me by the Livingston County Sheriff related to my tweets exposing nurses for publicly spreading COVID #misinfo at gov’t meetings.
This investigation, brought on behalf of the local Sheriff Mike Murphy – a vocal Trump supporter who has previously refused to enforce Gov. Whitmer’s mask mandate – represents a clear and punitive attack on my #1A rights guaranteed in the #Constitution 🇺🇸
Ben Franklin once wrote: “Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man.”
Franklin also wrote: “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” — (huge fan of that guy) What I’m trying to say is there is way too much waving around of the constitution in this community of ours and not enough reading it. Moms for “Liberty” Livingston — who also tried and failed TWICE to have me investigated and charged — take note. Trying to jail someone for their speech is the opposite of liberty.
At any rate, this situation is not over. Holly Austin — one of the nurses I tweeted about — has filed a request for a hearing in Circuit Court for a PPO against me after her ex-parte PPO petition was declined.
This will open the door for my attorney to subpoena the police report that I have requested but still not received, as well as all relevant documentation pursuant to the investigation that led to recommending charges against me. If anything is actionable, action will be taken. I want answers as to how this investigation came about and who was involved. Myself and my family deserve this for the pain of injustice that has been brought about by the LCSD politically-motivated attempt to intimidate me into silence.
I want to thank all of you who have reached out and have been so supportive of me with your words and your wallets. You are all truly a blessing, and true patriots who understand that — even if we may not always agree — an attack on free speech against one is an attack on us all.”
In response, Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy issued the following statement:
Dear Livingston County Residents:
Generally, I refrain from comments or engaging with folks on social media. I have made it very clear throughout the years, that I use social media as a vehicle to share information. As a rule, I do not comment on open investigations either, as both can be rabbit holes. I prefer to lean on advice from a friend that says, “Don’t make a one-day story a two-day story.” However, sometimes I simply cannot ignore a situation, particularly when the entire truth should be available. I would like to take a couple minutes to address the Kasey Helton complaint, as well as the editorial written by Judy Daubenmier.
However, before I do, I recall a saying that is so true in the Public Safety arena, and that is “the truth is stranger than fiction.” That said, sometimes the truth can be boring and does not make for a good story which is the case here. In an effort not to author War and Peace, I will touch on the highlights:
TRUTH: Even when people encounter the truth, they still do not believe it, because more times than not perception is reality, and assumptions and fiction are a lot more fun.
TRUTH: Law Enforcement has discretion in the laws it chooses to enforce and investigate, with the primary drivers being community expectations and resources.
TRUTH: The Prosecutor’s Office operates much the same way. You just need to look at our surrounding counties to see the contrast.
TRUTH: A Law Enforcement agency cannot file charges. It is the job of the Prosecutor’s Office to file charges.
TRUTH: Laws change and community expectations change, therefore law enforcement is constantly learning what laws to investigate and enforce. It does no good to expend resources if we know that charges will not be forthcoming. Therefore, we are always looking to see where that line is.
TRUTH: My office has refused to investigate numerous complaints based on free speech. For those individuals who believe they have absolute free speech, it would not work out well for you if you yelled FIRE in a theater or BOMB in an airport.
TRUTH: Mrs. Daubenmier, says in her editorial that I hung my hat on free speech when the President was in town and things got a little boisterous.
TRUTH: Mrs. Daubenmier is correct. We had just been through a year of protests after the killing of George Floyd. We had numerous rallies and protests in the county, and as such, we knew exactly where the lines were and what we were going to enforce.
TRUTH: Not taking any action when the President was in town had nothing to do with politics. I acknowledge we could have done some things better and we learned some important lessons. Moving forward, we will draw on those lessons learned.
TRUTH: This was not a political stunt because I aspire to a higher office. I have the best job in the world; I have the best staff in the world. This is the best county in the world. Rest assured I plan to be here for a long time
TRUTH: The Sheriffs’ Office does not determine investigation based on political affiliation, race, gender, age, religion etc. We determine investigation based on expectations within the community, the resources available, and what the Prosecutor’s Office is willing to charge.
TRUTH: A woman came into the lobby of the Sheriff’s Office wishing to file a complaint. Normally the Deputy would have said no. However, the Deputy felt this particular set of circumstances crossed the line. He based this on the fact the “suspect” in this case was going after the complainant’s employer.
TRUTH: Knowing that this has been an ever-evolving issue, the Deputy asked my thoughts. I agreed and felt that when you start going after someone’s livelihood, that is crossing the line.
TRUTH: I directed the Deputy to do a report and forward it to the Prosecutor’s Office so we would be able to get a clearer picture of where the line is on filing charges.
TRUTH: Kasey Helton turned to social media after the Deputy contacted her.
TRUTH: This is the best part; I had no idea who the focus of this investigation was until Kasey Helton turned to social media, so to say this is politically motivated could not be further from the truth. As stated previously, generally the truth does not make as good a story.
TRUTH: Had I known Mrs. Helton was the focus, I would have asked the Michigan State Police to investigate.
TRUTH: I pray you all had a great Christmas, and I wish nothing but the best for you and your families in 2022.
So, the questions remains: Will there be cyber-stalking charges filed against Kasey Helton?
While it’s hard for me to understand how there could be, I’ve been wrong before; however, I hope for the sake of free speech that in this instance I am right.