Cook County Public Defender Sues Bosses After They Confiscated a Picture of Her With a Gun – Bearing Arms

Cook County Public Defender Sues Bosses After They Confiscated a Picture of Her With a Gun – Bearing Arms

Just a couple of years ago, Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell, Jr. sided with gun owners who were challenging New York’s “may issue” carry regime, declaring that while he supports “policies that actually stem the flow of guns, prevent violence, and heal those who have been harmed,” he also supported “ending the way we criminalize gun possession” because he’s seen first hand the harm done by tossing people in prison simply for possessing a firearm without a license. 

Now, however, Mitchell is accused of violating the First Amendment rights of one of the attorneys in his office; a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces who claims that a photo of her holding a rifle while standing in front of the Israeli flag was confiscated from her office after she tried to hang it in a common area where other staffers had posted pictures of their own. 

As CWB Chicago details, Debra Gassman says the photo hung in her office without issue for more than twenty years, but that all changed after Hamas attacked Israel last fall. 

In the complaint, which accuses office leadership of violating her First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, Gassman said she was “devastated” by the strike, which killed more than 1,100 Israelis. She became upset that “few seemed to care—or even were aware of” the attack when she returned to work.

So, she decided to “raise awareness” by moving the photo from her office to an employee mailbox area “where other employees were allowed to put photos and decorations.”

“Executive management reprimanded her for putting it there,” the suit states, and she removed it “promptly” and returned it to her private office.

But, Gassman claims, a high-ranking deputy in the office, Parle Roe-Taylor, “confiscated” the picture during an “unannounced and unprecedented search of her private office.” Roe-Taylor prohibited her from displaying the image in her office, even though it had been there for over 20 years, the suit claims.

Roe-Taylor and another executive instructed an office chief to remove the photo.

“They told her Skokie supervisors that the Photo was comparable to a Nazi swastika,” the suit claims.

Here’s the picture so you can judge for yourself, but honestly, I find the characterization of Gassman’s photograph far more offensive than the image itself, which doesn’t bother me in the slightest. 

After Gassman was told that she was comparable to a Nazi, things got even weirder according to her complaint in federal court.

A week after Gassman’s picture was taken from her office, she received a written reprimand from Sharone Mitchell, Jr., who wrote that “displays of firearms can be perceived as threatening” and was a violation of the office’s Workplace Violence policy. Mitchell also added that while there was no evidence Gassman acted with malice, the “posting of a picture of an employee holding a firearm [is] inappropriate for the workplace”, though Gassman contends that photo had been in her office for decades without issue, and wasn’t the only picture that included a firearm that had been hung in the workplace. In fact, according to Gassman’s complaint, not only have pictures of guns floated around the office before, but some staffers have firearms in their own offices. 

Mitchell hasn’t submitted his response to the lawsuit yet, but that will likely be coming in the next couple of weeks, and I’m very curious to see what his defense will be. I was heartened to see his support for the Bruen challenge back in 2021, but if Gassman’s accusations are true, then it sounds like he needs a refresher course on our First Amendment right to free speech and expression.   

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