A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former Kennesaw State University Cheerleader against Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren and former lawmaker Earl Ehrhart.
The plaintiff, Tommia Dean, was one of five cheerleaders who took a knee during the national anthem at a college football game in the fall of 2017 to protest racial injustice and police brutality against African Americans.
The protest attracted the attention of Warren and then-State Rep. Ehrhart, who said publicly that they found it unpatriotic. They also took credit privately for pressuring the school’s president at the time, Sam Olens, into keeping the cheerleaders off the field during the anthem at subsequent games, according to text messages first published by The Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Last year, Dean filed a lawsuit against Olens and other officials, including Warren and Ehrhart. The suit alleged that Warren and Ehrhart had violated her constitutional rights out of racial and political animus.
Judge Timothy Batten dismissed the complaint against Warren and Ehrhart in an order issued Thursday. The ruling does not affect the case against Olens and several other KSU officials, who are still defendants.
Batten wrote that Dean did not provide the court with enough to conclude that Warren and Ehrhart acted against the cheerleaders “for any reason other than perceived disrespect to the flag.”
“Because the Court rules for Defendants on the issue of § 1985(3) animus, it declines to address the First Amendment issue,” the order said. “The Clerk is directed to drop Ehrhart and Warren as parties to this case.”
Cobb County defended Warren in the case, with county attorneys spending 161 hours on it. Outside attorneys estimated the cost of the work between $40,000 and $80,000 and some taxpayers took exception to their funding of the sheriff’s legal defense.
Warren thanked the county attorney in a statement on the dismissal.
“Everyone as an American citizen does have the right to protest for what they believe in, but we also have the right to disagree and stand up for what we believe in,” Warren said.
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