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No charges to be filed against Howell woman who tweeted criticism of COVID misinformation

There will be no charges filed against a Howell woman who was investigated for cyberstalking after publicly calling out a nurse educator for medical misinformation.

Kasey Helton was accused of harassment by Holly Austin, also of Howell, who filed a report with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office in December after Helton posted a series of tweets that referred to Austin as “a pathetic purveyor of health misinformation.”

Austin is a nurse educator with Schoolcraft College who made public statements against masks and COVID-19 vaccines at both a meeting of the Livingston County Board of Commissioners and the Brighton Area Schools Board of Education. Those statements, which included that children should not get the COVID vaccination, were repudiated by Schoolcraft College, which later tweeted that Austin’s opinions did not reflect the institution’s views.

A referral was subsequently made to the county’s prosecutor requesting cyberstalking charges be filed against Helton. At the time, Sheriff Mike Murphy said his rationale for doing that was to seek guidance on how to handle similar cases in the future.

“I know there are some folks who are miffed at the fact we did an investigation because it’s free speech, and I get all that, but at the end of the day when does the free speech line get crossed and become criminal?” said Murphy. “This was an opportunity to send this to the prosecutor’s office and figure out what the prosecutor’s office is willing to prosecute.”

The case appeared to be in limbo after Prosecutor David Reader indicated in early January that per a request for additional information, the case remained under investigation by the sheriff’s office.

However, Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carolyn Henry confirmed for GIGO News that they had decided not to pursue charges.

“The Livingston County Sheriff Department sent us the additional materials on the Helton investigation,” said Henry.  “Based on review of those materials, our office did not authorize criminal charges in the matter.”

In response, Helton said that while she was pleased the criminal investigation against her had been dropped, she firmly believed that it never should have proceeded to the level of recommending charges.

“I hold Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy directly responsible for that,” stated Helton. “He attacked my first amendment rights, and in doing so placed an unjust burden on myself and my family in his attempt to silence me. In America, free speech rights are everyone’s rights, regardless of whether we agree or disagree.”

Sheriff Murphy declined to comment for this story.

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