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Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to face trial on Jan. 22 — here's why

A federal judge has allowed a First Amendment violation complaint against former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke to go to a jury trial. The trail is set to begin on Jan. 22. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is set to face trial later this month for allegedly violating the civil rights of an airplane passenger on a flight from Dallas last year, USA Today reported Saturday.

What's going on?

According to USA Today, Clarke is set to stand trail for allegedly violating the First Amendment rights of Daniel Black when he used the official Milwaukee County sheriff's Facebook page to retaliate against Black for an incident that happened on an airplane on Jan. 15, 2017.

Following the incident, and after Black filed a complaint with Milwaukee County, Clarke lashed out at Black on his sheriff's page and labeled him a "Snowflake." More from USA Today:

The next month, Black sued Clarke and...six deputies, claiming violations of his Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable seizure, retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights by having him stopped at the airport and the subsequent mockery on Facebook, and his due process rights under the 14th Amendment. The suit also sought to have the county held liable for Clarke's actions.

U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller completely tossed the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims and tossed one of the two First Amendment claims. He ordered that a jury decide whether Clarke's Facebook post amounted to retaliation.

Stadtmueller also called Clarke's actions an exercise in "poor judgement."

What are the details of the incident?

Black and Clarke were aboard the same flight from Dallas to Milwaukee when Black, as he was boarding the plane, spotted Clarke and asked if he was, in fact, the Milwaukee sheriff. Clarke identified himself leading Black to shake his head before he continued moving to his seat in coach.

Sometime during the flight, Clarke instructed some of his officers to meet Black at the gate to detain and question him.

"Just a field interview, no arrest unless he becomes an a**hole with your guys. Question for him is why he said anything to me. Why didn’t he just keep his mouth shut?" Clarke instructed one officer via text message.

Upon landing in Milwaukee, Black was met by six deputies and two K-9s. They temporarily detained him, questioned him and escorted him out of the airport just as Clarke had requested.

After Black posted about the incident on social media, Clarke himself posted about it, once writing: "Cheer up, snowflake ... if Sheriff Clarke were to really harass you, you wouldn’t be around to whine about it."

This led Black to file a complaint with the county and initiate his lawsuit. No criminal charges were ever filed against Clarke, but court documents revealed last week the FBI had investigated the incident, even obtaining a search warrant for Clarke's personal email account.

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