No Charges To Be Filed Against Local Woman In Cyberstalking Case
March 12, 2022
By Jessica Mathews / email@example.com
A Livingston County woman will not face any criminal charges for posting videos to social media of anti-mask activists.
Holly Austin is a nurse educator at Schoolcraft College who spoke against a proposed mask mandate that was being discussed at a December meeting of the Brighton Area Schools Board of Education. Following that meeting, Kasey Helton of Marion Township posted a clip of Austin’s remarks, while referring to her as “a pathetic purveyor of health misinformation” and then tagged Schoolcraft College in the Tweet.
The College later responded by saying that while Austin was a faculty member, her opinions did not reflect the institution’s views.
A complaint was filed by Austin with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office claiming that Helton’s actions had constituted harassment, and requested cyberstalking charges be filed against Helton.
No such charges will be filed, according to the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office. Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carolyn Henry provided the following statement to WHMI “The Livingston County Sheriff’s Department submitted their investigation to our office. Based on our review of all of the materials submitted, our office did not authorize criminal charges in the matter”.
Helton’s Attorney, Craig Tank, earlier stated that Austin spoke during a public forum and Helton’s posting of those on social media and her subsequent comments about them amounted to a political disagreement that was protected by the First Amendment.
Sheriff Mike Murphy previously told WHMI that the report was forwarded on so as to give his office “insight into the appetite of the prosecutor’s office on these issues,” adding that “If they don’t end up issuing charges, we can say to future complainants that we won’t waste the time.”
Meanwhile, Austin had also filed for a Personal Protection Order against Helton - saying that her social media actions targeted, harassed and bullied her, as well as threatened her livelihood, citing her use of the hashtag #FireHollyAustin. Austin said she was in danger of losing her nursing license after hundreds of complaints were made about her to state licensing authorities because of Helton’s posts and that if she didn’t get the PPO, Helton would “destroy” her. The PPO was ultimately denied.
Tank said PPOs were not meant to cover such disputes, an opinion that Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hatty agreed with, ruling that such an order was not warranted under the circumstances and would more properly be pursued as a civil action under libel or defamation.