Arizona Student Journalist Sues University After Dismissal for Bringing up Jacob Blake's Sex Crime Charge

Arizona Student Journalist Sues University After Dismissal for Bringing up Jacob Blake's Sex Crime Charge
View of the campus of Arizona State University (ASU), a public research university located in Phoenix, Arizona (Shutterstock)
Bill Pan

An Arizona State University journalism student is suing the school after she was removed from her role at a student-run radio station for pointing out Jacob Blake had a warrant for his arrest over a sexual assault claim.

Rae'Lee Klein, the 21-year-old former station manager of ASU's Blaze Radio, became the target of Black Lives Matter supporters when she posted on Twitter a New York Post story about the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The paper reported that officers responded to the scene where Blake was ultimately shot to arrest the Wisconsin man for violating a restraining order related to a sexual assault accusation.

"Always more to the story, folks," wrote Klein in an Aug. 29 Twitter post, with the New York Post article detailing the felony sexual assault warrant for Blake and how he had shown up at the home of his alleged victim before being shot after resisting arrest.

"Please read this article to get the background of Jacob Blake's warrant," she wrote. "You'll be quite disgusted."

Following social media outrage over Klein's comment, the Blaze Radio's six-member board demanded Klein resign from her paid position. Klein refused to resign, saying she had done nothing wrong. She was then informed by the the dean of ASU's school of journalism that "staying on as station manager is not an option" for her.

Klein was told she was in violation of the school’s social media guidelines, which students are “encouraged” to abide by, according to the New York Post.

"Obviously as student journalists, it's broken all the time as we’re learning to navigate social media," Klein said. "At the time of the removal, I still did not know what I had done wrong."

In a letter (pdf) to ASU, Klein's lawyer asked the university to either rehire Klein at Blaze Radio or provide damages of $1,000 for violating her First Amendment rights.

"The University must remain neutral on issues and matters such as this," the lawyer wrote, emphasizing that the ASU, as a public institution, is bounded by the First Amendment. "Taking the decision to remove Ms. Klein is not remaining neutral—it is picking a side."

A complaint filed in July accused Blake, 29, of criminal trespass, third-degree sexual assault, and disorderly conduct. Blake has pleaded not guilty to all three charges.

The criminal complaint, which was obtained by the New York Post, accused Blake of breaking into the home of a woman he knew and sexually assaulting her in May. The record states that the victim told police she was asleep when Blake broke into her home and sexually assaulted her.

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