A local activist in a wheelchair has filed suit against a municipal lawyer over demeaning emails.
Hamtramck's municipal attorney ruthlessly mocked an activist in a wheelchair, saying he deserved the bullet that paralyzed him, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday.
Charles Blackwell, a 28-year-old government transparency advocate from Farmington Hills, argues in the lawsuit that demeaning emails from attorney James Peter Allen, Sr., were intended to chill his right to free speech and deter him from “further engaging in activity protected by the Constitution.”
In one of the emails, Allen wrote, “God recognized evil and sentenced you to sit while people like me run free and spread our DNA into the universe like you can’t.”
The emails came after Blackwell, who was paralyzed in a random drive-by shooting about eight years ago, sent a Freedom of Information Act request for contracts between Hamtramck and Allen’s law firm Allen Brothers. After Allen denied the request in August, Blackwell used an anonymous email account to send a meme depicting the faces of Allen and his partner attached to a woman’s body.
Allen responded by firing off several brutal emails in which he mocked Blackwell for being paralyzed and called him a “pathetic little wheel boy.”
Some snippets of the emails include:
• “You surely deserved that bullet that God sent to put you where you are.”
• “Sit down and stay down where that bullet justly put you, punk. Back to your regularly scheduled sit down.”
• “I love to walk. And run. And do things that others can’t. God doth have a great sense of humor and, in your case, a keen sense of justice.”
• “I won’t be thinking of you later tonight when I do that thing that you can’t.”
• “I want you to know that you are where you are because you so clearly and richly deserve to be there.”
Allen also threatened to subpoena Blackwell’s ISP and depose him “to verify what we already know” – that Blackwell sent the meme from an anonymous account.
The threats amount to retaliation and were intended to stop Blackwell from advocating for open government, according to his attorneys Tony D. Paris, of the Maurice & Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice, and Hannah Fielstra, of Ernst Charara & Lovell.
“If he served a subpoena to Google, he could obtain messages and emails and attachments from my email and cloud storage accounts,” Blackwell tells Metro Times
. “From a mental and emotional standpoint, that has been bothering me.”
To taxpayers, Blackwell has earned a reputation as a courageous defender of government transparency, often filing FOIA requests to unearth public records that bureaucrats try to keep hidden. In a recent lawsuit against the city of Inkster, Blackwell obtained a preliminary injunction after the city blocked him from the Facebook pages of the mayor and police department.
Allen, who also represents Inkster, bragged in an email that he’s making a lot of money from Blackwell’s legal actions — money that belongs to taxpayers.
“We love people like you. My children thank you, in fact, for the college money,” Allen wrote. "From the bottom of my satisfied self’s contended heart, thank you for the many hours you keep my colleagues occupied.”
In one email, Allen didn’t appear worried about repercussions for the offensive remarks.
“Please please please send these emails to people and say I should be canceled for dogging a pathetic little wheel boy like you,” Allen wrote in an email to Blackwell, according to the suit. “I dare you. I beg you, cowardly punk.”
Allen also represents other municipalities, including Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and Wayne County, according to Blackwell.
couldn’t reach Allen or Hamtramck city officials.
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