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Cyber-stalking or protected speech: Livingston County woman could face charges for tweets

West McGowan

The Livingston County sheriff is seeking cyber-stalking charges against a local political activist over some of her recent Twitter and Facebook posts.

Kasey Helton re-posted video excerpts of several people making unscientific anti-mask and anti-COVID vaccine comments at some Livingston County public meetings. They included several nurses and people affiliated with the group Moms for Liberty.

Helton’s reposts included critical commentary of the speakers, but she said they contained nothing overtly threatening. She said the posts were meant to draw attention to “the nurses who publicly spread health misinformation.”

Helton said she was shocked when shortly after the original post, detectives contacted her to let her know she was under investigation for alleged cyber-stalking.

Helton’s attorney Craig Tank said the Livingston County sheriff has requested charges be brought against her, but prosecutors have not yet signed off on that.

“She’s not been charged, and I don’t suspect that she will be,” Tank said, “Because this is protected political speech under the First Amendment.”

If prosecutors did bring charges, Tank said, "it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing for my client, because I think there’d be a pretty substantial payday” from civil litigation. He suggested the charges were motivated by efforts to “pacify a political base.”

The Livingston County sheriff’s office did not respond to Michigan Radio’s request for comment on Helton’s case. But sheriff Mike Murphy, a Republican, told the Michigan Advance his office launched an investigation after an unidentified person “told police they felt ‘threatened, intimidated and harassed’ by Helton.”

Helton, in a subsequent tweet, called the sheriff’s actions a “naked attempt to undermine my free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.