A federal judge has dismissed former state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, and Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren from a lawsuit filed by a former Kennesaw State University cheerleader.
The lawsuit stems from the cheerleader, Tommia Dean, and four others taking a knee during the national anthem at a KSU football game in September 2017 to protest police brutality against African Americans.
Both Ehrhart and Warren took issue with the protest and urged then-KSU President Sam Olens to stop the protests. The cheerleaders were kept off the field during the national anthem at KSU’s next two home games.
Dean alleges the university — and Olens — made the change to appease Warren and Ehrhart, who at the time was the chair of the state House committee in charge of funding for Georgia’s universities.
Dean’s lawsuit alleges that Warren and Ehrhart conspired to violate her constitutional rights “because of her race and because she was protesting police brutality against African Americans.”
The suit also asserts Dean has suffered an increase in migraine headaches and emotional distress.
In an order signed Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Batten directed Warren and Ehrhart dropped as defendants in the suit on the grounds that Dean did not provide enough evidence to prove the pair acted with racial animus.
“(Warren and Ehrhart) were exercising their own First Amendment rights when they spoke their minds to the KSU administration about their opposition to Dean’s protest,” the order states. “And their only discernable motive was their view that the flag and the anthem should be respected, and that what Dean and the other cheerleaders were doing was, in their mind, disrespectful.”
The order does not affect the case against Olens and other KSU officials.
In a statement to the MDJ, Ehrhart said he was “very happy with the just outcome” for himself and Warren and thanked his attorneys for “vigorously” defending his rights.
Likewise, Warren said he is “very pleased” with the court’s decision.
“Everyone as an American citizen does have the right to protest for what they believe in but, we also have the right to disagree and stand up for what we believe in,” Warren said in a statement.
Warren was represented by the county attorney’s office in the lawsuit. It is unclear whether the county will attempt to recoup its legal fees now that Warren has been dismissed from the suit — county spokesperson Ross Cavitt did not respond to emails asking about legal fees by press time.
A call seeking comment from Dean’s attorney was not returned by press time.