Vermont to pay $175,000 to man arrested for raising middle finger at state trooper

The state of Vermont has agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a lawsuit filed after a man was accused of raising the middle finger to the American Civil Liberties Union. said.

The Vermont chapter of the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the man, alleges that state trooper Jay Riken subjected Gregory Bombard to an “unwarranted traffic stop and retaliatory arrest” that violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.

“This incident should never have happened in the first place,” said Hillary Rich, attorney for the ACLU of Vermont. Wednesday’s report. “Police must respect everyone’s First Amendment rights — even for things they find offensive or insulting.”

In February 2018, Riggan pulled Bombard in St. Albans because he believed Bombard had raised the middle finger at him. complaint The ACLU filed on Bombard’s behalf in 2021.

The suit said Riggen questioned Bombart for “several minutes” when he denied making the gesture, saying he was free to leave.

As he drove away, Bombard “cursed his middle finger,” the lawsuit said. Riggen then pulled him back and told him he was under arrest and that his “publicly profane behavior” was disorderly conduct, according to the document.

Bombard was taken into custody and held for more than an hour and his car was towed, the complaint said, and the Franklin County state’s attorney charged him with disorderly conduct. The ACLU said he was “forced to lead a criminal proceeding for almost a year” before that charge was dismissed.

“The prosecutor later filed a second charge of disorderly conduct against Bombard in connection with the same incident, irresponsibly. [creating] He was charged with endangering the public by obstructing traffic when he was towed, although the court dismissed the charge before a settlement was reached.

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under June 12 solutionThe State of Vermont awarded Bombard $100,000 in damages and $75,000 in attorneys’ fees to the ACLU and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (fire), the two nonprofits that represented him in the case, announced the settlement Wednesday.

According to the settlement, Riegen and the state of Vermont did not admit to the lawsuit or any liability against them. Vermont State Police and the Vermont governor’s office did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment. Riggen retired from the force on May 31, state police told NBC5.

“I believe that with this settlement, the Vermont State Police will avoid silencing criticism of its troopers or making baseless traffic stops,” Bombard said, according to an ACLU of Vermont press release. “At least now I can pay my criminal lawyer to defend myself and take my 88-year-old mother out to a nice dinner.”

In 2019, a federal appeals court ruled that threatening a police officer was constitutionally protected speech and not grounds for arrest, just weeks after another federal appeals court ruled that a Michigan woman’s constitutional rights were violated when she was stopped for fostering. An officer’s middle finger.

An appeals court judge ruled that the “familiar gesture” was “protected by the First Amendment.”

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