City to pay up after former St. Louis BOA President Reed’s Twitter block

Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 6:56 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - A former local elected official is heading to federal prison, but it was a simple click of a button on his Twitter page that could soon be costing you, the taxpayer.

A local woman has just won a federal lawsuit after former St Louis Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed blocked her on Twitter. Now, even though he’s resigned, a judge said the city still has to pay up.

In a 20-page decision, a federal judge found that Reed violated a citizen’s constitutional rights by blocking her on Twitter. The suit, filed in 2020 by Sarah Felts, who the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) represented, argued that when Reed blocked her from Twitter back in 2019, it was a violation of her First Amendment rights as an act of viewpoint discrimination.

Reed, through the City’s attorneys, argued he blocked her due to what he perceived as a threat on the site.

The court now says her tweet wasn’t threatening, and because Reed used his Twitter as a “tool of governance” to communicate with the public, he couldn’t keep people from accessing it.

Reed resigned earlier this year after being indicted on public corruption charges. He was sentenced to close to four years in prison just last week.

In the Twitter lawsuit, a judge ruled that the taxpayers must be on the hook.

The local lawsuit references a similar case against former President Donald Trump, who blocked critics on Twitter. The Supreme Court just last year vacated an earlier finding that he shouldn’t hit the block button. Of course, he then was permanently banned by Twitter, then unbanned under new owner Elon Musk.

Reed had unblocked Felts after the lawsuit was filed, but the judge found it was too late.

How much it will cost taxpayers remains to be seen, with both sides still arguing over damages.

News 4 Investigates wanted to talk to Felts. She is pretty active on Twitter. We’ve not heard back.

“Officials who use their social media accounts as a tool of their public office can’t selectively exclude the voices of those who disagree with them,” Attorney for Felts, Lisa Hoppenjans, said in a statement.

We also asked the ACLU to talk. They also have not responded.

A spokesperson for the St. Louis Mayor’s office said The City has no comment at this time.