Vernon Jones ordered to pay $45K for blocking man on Facebook page

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones to pay $45,652 in damages and legal fees to a man he blocked on his Facebook page while serving in the state Legislature.

Jones blocked his constituent, Tomas Miko, from his social media page after the two exchanged testy posts in March 2020 about proposed immigration legislation sponsored by Jones when he was a state representative. Also following their crossfire, Jones deleted Miko’s dissenting comments.

Miko filed a federal lawsuit against Jones a few months later, alleging Jones deleted Miko’s comments to silence his criticism. In a decision issued last year, U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg noted that when public figures block constituents from their social media profiles to prevent them from expressing contrary views, such acts constitute “viewpoint discrimination.”

Grimberg also found that Miko’s claims were sufficient to prove liability and issued a judgment against Jones, who never responded to the lawsuit or tried to defend it.

On Tuesday, Grimberg awarded Miko $8,000 in compensatory damages, which the judge said “is sufficient to deter Jones and other public officials from engaging in similar misconduct.”

Grimberg also ordered Jones to pay $37,652 in costs and legal fees to attorneys Gerry Weber, Craig Goodmark and Amith Gupta who served as Miko’s counsel when he filed the federal lawsuit against Jones three years ago.

Last year, Jones, who served in the state Legislature from 1993 to 2001 and again from 2017 to 2020, lost his bid in a GOP primary runoff to represent Georgia’s 10th congressional district.