Free speech absolutist Rep. Sortwell turns off Facebook comments
Going dark after report of child abuse allegations
Rep. Shae Sortwell speaks to the COVID bill on the Assembly floor 1/7/21 (via WisEye).
Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) turned off comments on his official Facebook page this week after a report from the Green Bay Press-Gazette revealed on Wednesday that the Green Bay Police Department had recommended he be charged for child abuse in 2013 but the Brown County District Attorney never filed charges.
After the report was published, Sortwell, whose views on free speech are expansive, prevented comments on all of his Facebook posts.
“This bill prohibits state agency employees and state elected officials from influencing or attempting to influence a social media Internet site to censor, deplatform, or shadow ban users on the social media Internet site,” the bill states.
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In 2019, a federal judge ruled that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) and former Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) violated the First Amendment by blocking liberal groups on Twitter. In a statement, Sortwell’s office said turning off comments on Facebook posts complies with that court ruling.
“The Representative’s social media is in full compliance with the Constitution and the court’s decision,” the statement said.
The Press-Gazette report found that Sortwell and his wife were investigated by the Green Bay police after a family member found bruises on one of their children while giving him a bath. Sortwell told officers he and his wife often struck their child with objects when he was being “defiant” because they are commanded to in the Bible.
Police recommended a charge of felony child abuse against Sortwell, which carries a maximum penalty of six years imprisonment.
Sortwell, who the Green Bay police gave ten days to provide a statement before the records of the incident were provided to the Press-Gazette, wrote that the decision not to charge him and his wife was the correct one.
“Nearly a decade ago, a disgruntled family member made an accusation against my wife and me. The police appropriately did their jobs and looked into concerns and then forwarded their findings on to the Brown County District Attorney’s Office who rightfully decided to drop the matter,” Sortwell said in the statement. “While relationships among extended family members can sometimes be difficult, we are thankful to those public servants who do their best to get to the full story and protect our families and our communities.”
The Brown County District Attorney said that the decision not to file charges was made because it’s difficult to prove to a jury that corporal punishment is “unreasonable.”
Last month, Sortwell responded to allegations of election fraud by the Racine County Sheriff’s Office against members of the Wisconsin Election Commission by saying if a law enforcement agency recommends charges against someone, the district attorney should file them.
“Racine County Sheriff’s Department believes the Wisconsin Election Commission has committed a felony crime and is referring the information to the Racine District Attorney for prosecution,” Sortwell wrote in an Oct. 28 Facebook post. “It now falls to the DA to do her job.”
After the report was published, Sortwell resigned from his position at the Brown County chapter of Wisconsin Right to Life, an anti-abortion organization. Sortwell joined the organization in 2013, around the time he was being investigated for child abuse.
“Wisconsin Right to Life condemns any form of child abuse against born and unborn children,” Heather Weininger, executive director of Wisconsin Right to Life, said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “The allegations made against Rep. Shae Sortwell in 2013 are serious and should be left in the hands of the appropriate authorities.”
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