Elected Republican railroaded into jail scores crushing victory

 January 23, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

A judge has removed the immunity protections from two Democrat county commissioners and a sheriff in a Trumbull County, Ohio, war that now includes a First Amendment lawsuit against them.

The fight is over a single Republican member elected to the county commission, how the Democrats railroaded her into a jail visit, and how they now are being sued for First and Fourth Amendment violations.

"Here in America, we do not arrest our political opponents," charged Judge J. Philip Calabrese in the North District of Ohio.

report at RedState.com told the back story of the crushing legal victory.

"A Republican county commissioner arrested during a meeting for criticizing the sheriff has scored a major win in federal court. Niki Frenchko, the only Republican on the Trumbull County, Ohio, board of commissioners, was arrested during a meeting in July 2022 for criticizing the performance of Sheriff Paul Monroe," the report said.

Frenchko had unseated incumbent and county Democrat party chairman Dan Polivka by 52-48.

Democrats first tried to have her election victory overturned, then they organized resistance to the point county workers demanded a "protective order."

The other commissioners, Democrats Mauro Cantalamessa and Frank Fuda, the ruling said, "viewed her as ignorant of the basic workings of county government and a nuisance, to put it mildly."

The controversy broke into open war when Frenchko read into the record a letter from the mother of a man who allegedly was mistreated while in the county jail. The sheriff responded with a demand for an apology and Fuda ordered the clerk to read that letter.

Frenchko interrupted the clerk and objected, Fuda ordered her to stop interrupting, using his gavel and raising his voice, and shortly later Frenchko was jailed on a claim of "disturbing a lawful meeting."

The judge now has removed the immunity held by various officials to a lawsuit Frenchko filed.

"This case tests that longstanding norm as well as our Constitution’s robust protections for free speech that allow us to criticize our representatives and public officials. Plaintiff Niki Frenchko won election to the three-member Board of County Commissioners of Trumbull County, Ohio. She was an outsider and the only member of the County government from her political party. As a public official, she used her position to needle the incumbents and, in her view, hold them accountable for their decisions. For their part, they viewed her as ignorant of the basic workings of county government and a nuisance, to put it mildly," the judge said.

His ruling found the defendants violated Frenchko's First and Fourth Amendment rights.

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