Sep 15, 2023 - News

Lawsuit targeting TikToker tossed in Chesterfield

Illustration of a gavel hovering over a phone with an image on the screen of a gavel hovering over a phone, in a recursive pattern.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A judge told Chesterfield County it can't help a police sergeant sue a TikToker for defamation.

What's happening: The county attorney's office was attempting to represent police Sgt. Kevin Flynn in the suit against a county resident with a massive TikTok following and a penchant for criticizing the police department.

  • But Judge Gordon Wilkins ruled this week the county can't serve as Flynn's lawyer because it's not a party to the case and has no formal interest in its outcome.

Why it matters: First Amendment experts called the case unusual and argued it could be seen as using government resources to stifle criticism of public officials.

Catch up fast: The suit had alleged Charlotte Carter, a frequent critic of the police department, defamed Flynn when she falsely accused him of stalking in one of her TikTok videos about the county.

  • Carter, who has amassed more than 200,000 followers on the platform and whose videos racked up millions of views, later acknowledged her error and apologized.

What they're saying: Carter was represented by lawyer Tom Roberts, who said in a statement that as a Chesterfield resident himself, he's "pleased that my tax dollars are not being spent funding this private litigation."

The other side: The county argued in court that Carter's accusations impugned the integrity of the county and its police department, which justified the county attorney's involvement.

  • Asked whether it plans to appeal the opinion, a spokesman said the county is weighing its options and declined to comment further.

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