Protester Receives $62,500 Settlement After Arrest atLeonard Leo's Home

Eli Durand-McDonnell, arrested at a protest outside Leonard Leo's home, received a $62,500 settlement from the Mount Desert Police Department. The settlement followed a lawsuit alleging the arrest violated his rights to free speech and was made under false pretenses.

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Protester Receives $62,500 Settlement After Arrest atLeonard Leo's Home

Protester Receives $62,500 Settlement After Arrest atLeonard Leo's Home

Eli Durand-McDonnell, a 25-year-old Bar Harbor man, has received a $62,500 settlement from the Mount Desert Police Department after being arrested at a protest outside conservative legal activist Leonard Leo's home in Northeast Harbor, Maine, in July 2022. The protest was held to demonstrate against Leo's influence in overturning federal abortion protections.

Why this matters: This settlement highlights the importance of protecting free speech and the right to protest, especially when it comes to criticizing powerful figures who seek to shape public policy. The outcome of this case has implications for the ability of citizens to hold those in power accountable and to exercise their constitutional rights without fear of retribution.

Durand-McDonnell was arrested by Lt. Kevin Edgecomb and Officer Nathan Formby on July 31, 2022, and charged with disorderly conduct. However, the charge was later dismissed by Hancock County District Attorney Robert Granger. Two months after his arrest, Durand-McDonnell sued Edgecomb and Formby in federal court, alleging that they violated his rights to free speech and arrested him under false pretenses.

The settlement, obtained through a Freedom of Access Act request, includes a release of Mount Desert and its representatives from further legal claims and a prohibition against either party from publicly disparaging the other. District Attorney Robert Granger characterized the case as a low priority for his office and said prosecutors should "tread very carefully" when considering whether protected political speech crosses the line into a breach of the peace.

Leonard Leo, the target of the protest, has been under scrutiny for directing nearly $100,000 in secret payments to Ginni Thomas, wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Leo has also leveraged his work with The Federalist Society to obtain a $1.6 billion gift for his "dark money network" that has helped to get conservative, anti-abortion justices appointed to the Supreme Court.

Durand-McDonnell argued that the protest was a political protest and that the rules don't apply to Leonard Leo, who uses his wealth and influence to silence others. "The rules don't apply to Leonard Leo. He can use this insane amount of money and influence and be a big shot, and throw his weight around. And, if he doesn't agree with what someone else says, it's no longer free speech," Durand-McDonnell stated.

The settlement highlights the importance of protecting free speech and the right to protest. While some protests can go too far, saying "Fuck Leo" in a public place is protected free speech. The local authorities were forced to settle after Durand-McDonnell sued, underscoring the need to safeguard individuals' First Amendment rights, even when the speech is critical of powerful figures like Leonard Leo.