By Kyle Dupler
ADAMS COUNTY OHIO – Many Adams County Sheriff’s Deputies and Sargents are suing famous rapper “Afroman” Joseph Foreman and his affiliated companies for Unauthorized Use of Individual’s Persona, citing Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2741, and three claims of invasion of privacy. This lawsuit comes after a failed search warrant at Foreman’s home. The public employees were filmed by Foreman’s wife (not named in the tort) and multiple security cameras throughout his home. Foreman proceeded to produce music videos and merchandise poking fun at and making light of the entire incident. Thus the lawsuit CVH20230069 filed in Adams County.
The complaint describes “embarrassment, ridicule, emotional distress, humiliation, and loss of reputation,” as well as Foreman’s profits from his artistic retelling of having his home searched.
Very often an individual who has been merely accused of crimes faces the same treatment. Mug shots, press releases, public arrests, and news stories equally tarnish the reputation of the accused and subject them to embarrassment, harassment, ridicule, and even death threats. One may point out a difference of commercial enterprise. However, the law exempts news, who obviously profit, and in some cases civil asset forfeiture directly profits the police force.
The privacy claims are strange coming from public employees who serve the public and identify themselves publicly. This appears to be a clear case of retaliation after a search warrant simply doesn’t pan out.
Free speech must allow for criticisms of public officials. I’m no lawyer, but ORC 2741.09 exempts “A literary work, dramatic work, fictional work, historical work, audiovisual work, or musical work regardless of the media in which the work appears…””Material that has political or newsworthy value;””The use of an aspect of an individual’s persona in connection with the broadcast or reporting of an event or topic of general or public interest;” and “A use of the persona of an individual that is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as long as the use does not convey or reasonably suggest endorsement by the individual whose persona is at issue.”
Foreman doesn’t convey any of the deputies or sergeants endorse his music or products. The conduct of public officials is political, newsworthy, and of the public interest. Forman’s public persona “Afroman” is already in the business of audiovisual work. Libertarians support individuals’ rights to free speech and to freely produce and trade. Their combination does not make the rights any less important. It’s a bold move filing this lawsuit and asking for a jury trial. Let’s see if it pans out. I hope it is dimissed or ruled in favor of the defendants.