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Attorney files lawsuit against Clearwater County sheriff for violation of free speech

Las Vegas Attorney Stephen Stubbs made comments on the sheriff's Facebook page criticizing the investigation into a deputy involved shooting in February.

CLEARWATER COUNTY, IDAHO, Idaho — A Las Vegas attorney filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a North Idaho sheriff Tuesday claiming he was banned from the sheriff's Facebook page and his comments were deleted.

Attorney Stephen Stubbs says the Clearwater County sheriff violated his free speech. Now he hopes a judge will agree.

Stubbs was the attorney who represented the family of Mike Trappett, who was shot and killed by Clearwater County deputies last February. Prosecutors ultimately determined the shooting was justified.

"This lawsuit is very important because our government officials should not be allowed to take away people's speech," Stubbs said. "This was an official Sheriff Goetz Facebook page, he was speaking in his official capacity about official police business. When that happens, you don't get to pick and choose who gets to comment."

One of his comments pressured the sheriff to release the body cam footage of the shooting. He was told that couldn't happen until the investigation was over.

"The investigation has been over for more than a month and now they aren't responding at all and so they are doing everything possible to make sure that nobody sees that video," Stubbs said.

Stubbs says the point of his lawsuit is to correct the behavior he says violated his First Amendment rights.

"Sheriff Goetz has a personal page, he can do whatever he wants on that," Stubbs said. "But, when it says Sheriff Goetz on it and he's speaking as the sheriff about official business, that's not when he's allowed to alter or take away peoples' speech."

We reached out to the sheriff's office and Goetz for a comment on the lawsuit, but have not heard back. KREM 2 also filed a public records request to get the body cam video.

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