On September 11th, 2015, Constitution State protester Michael Picard was legally open carrying a handgun and had a camera running. The police took the camera, his pistol and pistol permit. The charges against Picard were eventually dropped, after he refused a plea bargain. On September 15th, 2016 the ACLU-CT has filed a civil rights law suit against the three individual police officers.

From acluct.org:

HARTFORD — In a complaint filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT) contends that three state police troopers illegally retaliated against a protester by searching and detaining him, confiscating his camera, and charging him with fabricated criminal infractions.

On behalf of Connecticut resident Michael Picard, the ACLU-CT alleges that John Barone, Patrick Torneo, and John Jacobi, all employed by the state police division of Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, violated Picard’s First Amendment rights to free speech and information and Fourth Amendment right against warrantless seizure of his property.

On September 11, 2015, Picard was protesting near a police DUI checkpoint in West Hartford. Barone approached him under the pretext of public complaints and confiscated Picard’s legally-carried pistol and pistol permit. Barone then claimed that filming the police is illegal, and took Picard’s camera.

Unbeknownst to the troopers, the camera was recording when Barone brought it to Torneo’s cruiser. With the camera rolling, the officers proceeded to: call a Hartford police officer to see if he or she had any “grudges” against Picard; open an investigation of him in the police database; and discuss a separate protest that he had organized at the state capitol.

After Barone announced “we gotta cover our ass,” either Torneo or Jacobi stated “let’s give him something,” and the three settled on fabricating two criminal infraction tickets that they issued to Picard. Torneo drove away with Picard’s camera on top of his cruiser, upon which the camera fell onto the hood of the car, Torneo stopped, and Jacobi returned the camera to Picard. In July of this year, the criminal charges against Picard were dismissed in the Connecticut Superior Court.

Here’s the complaint filed with U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. From the lawsuit:

This suit challenges the actions of three Connecticut state troopers who, acting under color of state law, detained, searched, and charged Michael Picard for protesting the government. The defendants also energetically interfered with Mr. Picard’s right to receive information when they confiscated his camera and made efforts to prevent him from recording their illegal acts with his cell phone. Through their actions, the state troopers violated Mr. Picard’s rights under the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

This sort of lawsuit could have considerable impact on police attitudes across the United States. It’s directed at the officers personally. It’s based on long standing First and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.It’s a federal lawsuit based on civil rights.There’ss no question that the plaintiff was openly carrying a pistol.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

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93 Responses to ACLU Files Civil Lawsuit for Connecticut Open Carrier

    • Unfortunately, the behavior of these CT police are not an abberation. Good police officers are to be respected. Badge heavy, vindictive police need to be publicly outed and shorn from the ranks. But as we all know, the Blue Wall protects its own. You wonder why Americans look at police with distrust and distrust? Kudos to the ACLU for standing up for the rights of the aggrieved vet. The USA does not need Gestapo.

      • “Good police officers are to be respected.”

        “But as we all know, the Blue Wall protects its own.”

        The behavior of cops in the latter statement negates the existence of the type of cop in the former statement.

        • Fair point. Chances are the badge heavy officers will stay on the job and collect benefits and pensions for trying to ruin a protestors life. I’d be surprised if they are disciplined by their agency.

    • I generally support the police and am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. However, there was no justification for what these three officers did to the man who was legally protesting. None whatsoever. I’m surprised that the ACLU is helping since he’s gun owner, but kudos to them in this case. As for the officers, they deserve whatever they get in this case. They disgraced their badges and all good officers throughout the country.

      • >> I’m surprised that the ACLU is helping since he’s gun owner

        Why are you surprised about this? A quick google search over TTAG will bring up several stories about ACLU helping in similar cases. They don’t protect RKBA directly, but whenever any other civil liberty is affected in that context, or there’s unequal treatment, or clearly illegal actions in attempt to arrest or prosecute, they absolutely do care.

    • The cops were very casual and are only being held to account because they were stupid enough to do it on camera.
      Who thinks this is the only time they’ve done something like this?

  1. I’m sure the justice system will in no way be skewed to lighten the punishment of these clearly brave and dignified lore officers. I mean, Hilary got a real stiff punishment didn’t she?

  2. Hope this goes the way it should. However, getting the government (or its agents, in this case) to admit any wrongdoing, is nigh impossible. A major loophole in our justice system is that the government gets to judge the government.

    • In this case the government, or its agents, do not have to admit or deny anything – there’s a video/audio tape of their illegal actions. I don’t know what damages they are actually being individually sued for, but if they are not unreasonable I would expect a settlement rather than let that tape be played for a jury.

  3. If only the AG or higher courts would publicize this case and use it as a high profile public PSA to all PDs as well as govt entities that abuse of our civil liberties where the result of such gross negligence and abuse of power and our rights will carry maximum reprocusions and penalties including job termination and a permanent black listing from any other jobs requiring upholding the Constitution.

    Then apply this warning to all govt positions and appointments.

    One can dream.

    • The cops in CT, especially the staties, have been reminded and reprimanded over and over and over and over and they just keep on keepin’ on when it comes to brown shirtin’.

      CT is home to some of the absolute worse cops in the country. Probably even the world and no that’s not meant to be hyperbole.

    • The SCOTUS and the DOJ have several time sent letters to PD all over the county to reiterate that officers can be filmed. SCOTUS cases in IL, MA and other states have stated the public has the right to record the police. There are over 70 SCOTUS cases on the books with the same result — people can record the police.

      I am unsure what else can be done except to have a law that says if the PO violates the 1st amendment that he is on his own. No union or state paid court case. He is defending himself on his own dime

      CT tried to pass a law pretty stating something similar but it was shot down by the D’s and the CT AG said there was already a federal law and many SCOTUS cases so no new law was required. Maybe they need to rethink that especially if those 3 loose and it looks like they will.

  4. I’m a big supporter of LE and military.
    Just sometimes things don’t go the right way.
    No one is perfect, but seems when any LEO does something wrong, it’s amplified to some extent.
    I guess in the back of everyone’s mind maybe, is that LE should be perfect in all respects.

    • Amplified MY ASS!

      These Nazi bastard cops were doing everything in their power to violate the most basic rights of a law abiding citizen.

      They should be prosecuted for treason and removed permanently from civilized society, or as an alternative pilloried in the public square to suffer at the pleasure of the proletariat that they have subjugated.

    • Bravo Sierra, Bucko.
      No one expects cops to be perfect, but these “cops” (jack-booted thugs is more like it) didn’t make a simple mistake.They deliberately violated the guys rights while he was engaging in legal activities because they wanted to illegally punish him for legal actions and civil disoebience.
      They:
      1. approached him under the pretext of public complaints (even though he was breaking no laws).
      2.confiscated Picard’s legally-carried pistol and pistol permit.
      3. then claimed that filming the police is illegal, and took Picard’s camera.
      Further compounding their illegal abuse of power under the color of the law, they had no probable cause and so, to cover their bad and illegal behavior under the color of law, went on a fishing expedition:
      1. call a Hartford police officer to see if he or she had any “grudges” against Picard;
      2. open an investigation of him in the police database; and
      3. discuss a separate protest that he had organized at the state capitol.
      4. settled on fabricating two criminal infraction tickets that they issued to Picard.
      They need to be bankrupted, never work in law enforcement again, and serve hard time.
      When the British did this, we had a revolution.

      • They need to be bankrupted, never work in law enforcement again, and serve hard time.

        The VA would hire them; a lot of VA cops have ended up there because city/county departments won’t hire them, or they’re only a few steps away from the glue factory.

      • I was hoping not to see one in my lifetime. But, if things get any worse…That’s where we could be heading….We the people need to take a stand…Dismantle these social engineering projects, ferret out the architects, and remove them from society. Restoring civil liberties back to the citizenry. Make it a capital crime to infringe upon any amendment pertaining to the citizenry…..

    • Amplified MY ASS!

      These Nazi bastard cops were doing everything in their power to violate the most basic rights of a law abiding citizen.

      They should be prosecuted for treason and removed permanently from civilized society, or as an alternative pilloried in the public square to suffer at the pleasure of the proletariat they have subjugated.

    • Who’s demanding perfection? All that this case requires was simple inaction. Coppers just needed to sit on their ample jelly-filled butts and do NOTHING.

      Instead, they went out of their way and harrassed an innocent man, damaged his property, and conspired to deprive him of his civil rights.

      Shoving another apple fritter in your face and leaving law abiding people alone is not perfection. It’s almost literally the absolute minimum that can be done.

      It’s hero worshipping, po-po wannabes who show up for jury duty eager to acquit a criminal cop who create the atmosphere in which these thugs with badges thrive.

    • Sorry, you are just simply wrong. LE should be held to a very high standard. LEOs are, by law, given significant authority over citizens. By virtue of title and badge, LEOs carry lethal weapons were citizens are prohibited and have arrest powers. Most states have laws stating that citizens MUST obey LEO orders. Since we entrust LE with what amounts to power over citizens’ lives and liberty, they absolutely MUST be held to the highest standard. The perception that some LE departments will not is one of the factors contributing to the current civilian/LE unrest seen around the nation. Unfortunately, the actions of what I truly believe are the minority of LEOs destroys the credibility of the vast majority of upstanding LEOs. The fact that these individuals were willing to stomp on a citizen’s rights then attempt to fabricate a story to back up their actions demonstrates, to me, that these so-called Law Enforcement Officers are nothing of the sort. They deserve whatever they get. And if the CT police department involved had any respect whatsoever for the citizens they theoretically serve, it would lead the charge.

    • Take away the special protections the police have for “missing” when they shoot (yes i know that does not pertain to the above incident), and I’d be more more forgiving but sadly, they want it both ways. They want all the perks and protections from the office for the performance of their job, and they want special latitude for when they screw up. You can’t have it all. If ya dont like the gig than don’t do it. Its a semi-free country. No one is forcing you to be a police officer.

      I’m NOT a supporter of the police. I feel they’ve become tax collectors with guns that exist solely to take in cash for the municipalities they work for and do little to nothing to enhance public safety. So I’m may be biased.

    • Thing is, with cops, “sometimes things don’t go the right way” quite often translates to corpses of innocent people who happened to be in said way.

      While no-one is indeed perfect, for most of the rest of us, our mistakes don’t carry that weight. And when they do – when you get people killed due to negligence – there’s usually a punishment.

      But with cops, it all just a mistake, every time. And anyway, they just want to go home to their families at the end of the day, so of course they have a carte blanche on the use of force whenever they suspect anything that might interfere with that. It’s not like anybody else has homes or families.

      • No…These people have excepted the career in a dangerous government job…If your job is to hard…Then go work for Wonder Bread, Coke-cola, Target…Don’t infringe upon our civil rights….Do tread on me !

    • Humans make mistakes, we’re not perfect creatures.

      A mistake is an honest, genuine oops – something not meant to happen, an error that wasn’t intentional.

      What these officers did wasn’t a mistake. It was a deliberate attempt to frame an innocent man, a deliberate violation of their oaths of service, and an intentional corruption of their own honor and that of their department.

    • I support are US Troops…But the police has me seriously on the line…US Constitutional-Bill of Rights is more important than P/O’s Job…Change politics in the USA… Return life, liberty, freedom, and the Pursuit of Happiness to the citizenry. Get our manufacturering jobs back in the USA…”Make America great again!” Then, make sure our Civil rights are protected and enforced…Make it a Capital crime for any Politicians / government agencies /Law Enforcement /private corporate entities from infringement upon any constitutional amendment with severe and serious repercussions in such an event…Maybe, it might be time to Ban Police Unions in all Law enforcement venues… If there is “Thin Blue line Rebellion ” in the LEO community…Then it may be time to disarm them, and try a privatization model…Limited armed township security officers. No guns—only the citizenry…Batons, pepper spray, and backup enmass if needed…

  5. This, my fellow gunnies, is what cops do. All of them. Every day. This is SOP. This is why I view cops the same as rattlesnakes. There are “good” cops. There are “bad” cops. Whatever. But this is what they all do. You are either on one side of the blue line or the other.

  6. “This sort of lawsuit could have considerable impact on police attitudes across the United States”

    It’s a standard 1983 lawsuit (42 U.S.C. § 1983) and they’re filed all the time. In any given federal district there are more than dozen current active 1983 lawsuits. This specific suit really isn’t going to change anything across the country. Until more cops are criminally prosecuted for snatching phones and fabricating charges, it will stay status quo. It will take a local prosecutor with some balls or a federal prosecutor willing to make these cases a mission before there is any notice in the LE community across the country.

  7. The irony here is this is real deep systemic police abuse in this case with little national media coverage and no protests, yet instead of large protests about this, we have Black Lives Matter encouraging violent racially-motivated protests over largely good shoots of armed perps refusing lawful orders.
    Think Lynch/Obama’s DOJ will investigate? Don’t hold your breath: there is no race card to be played.

  8. Holy crap. The bigger story here is that master sergeant Patrick Torneo earned $237,021.77/total compensation in 2015. That’s the fleecing of America right there. Barone eared 159,352.58 and Jacobi 183,027.41 in total compensation. Public records are an amazing thing.

    • Most of that money was probably “earned” getting paid OT to wave people out of parking garages or babysit construction sites.

      At least that’s how it is here in Seattle.

    • And this is why cops will do whatever they are told. Your rights are secondary to their compensation. They are not giving up that scratch.

  9. Tell me again how most police will disobey orders to confiscate firearms if told to do so ….

    But …. But ….. muh pension , muh benifits… ” I ‘ had ‘ to.”

    • Keep telling yourself that. I haven’t heard anybody claim they will refuse out of their strong morals. But after a few of your close friends and associates are killed in less than a week, you may go on the next raid, but you won’t be the first through that door. Neither will anyone else. Nationwide, a few hundred dead agents and it will stop being a question.

      And continuing to act as though allowing an isolated incident equates to acceptance of an order for nationwide confiscation is just stupid. Worthy of Hillary stupid.

      • The larger point is that it’s naive to view this as an ‘ isolated event ‘ …. more like S.O.P.
        New Jersey State Police are at least this piss poor if not worse.
        ” You will respect my author-i-tie ” as Cartman would say.

  10. Loss of employment and charges are an order here but that won’t happen. If the government starts actually prosecuting it’s minions it will set a precedent for the higher ups that corrupt officials don’t want to have set.

    • Eh, what do the politicians and gov’t officials care about these staties? These guys are just the boots on the ground doing the dirty work. Pablo didn’t smuggle his own yayo and Al didn’t bootleg his own liquor. If you lose a few underlings in the process, no big deal, you need the insulation. Just like if you can keep the populace happy with these sacrificial cops to keep people further away from your own goings-on.

      • Prosecuted minions get disgruntled. Disgruntled minions roll over on you for your corrupt dealings especially if it gets them a deal.

        • Prosecutors have dealt with shadier people than this in successful efforts to nail someone even shadier.

          When you’re a shady politician you generally don’t tick off the cops because then they start “investigating” you in retaliation. That’s all I’m saying.

        • Definitely. I’m just saying higher ups, whether in a criminal, political or governmental org. typically don’t mind sacrificing front line, street-level guys, especially if they can use it to benefit themselves and cover up their own shady dealings. Some pol or prog out there will be all over these guys (as well they should, if this stuff is true) not out of morality but because it can boost their status as champions of the people or whatever. Snakes typically don’t mind eating other snakes.

  11. So whats the impact of sovereign immunity on this suit? I know theyre suing the individual officers, but as they were acting in their role as police, as they covered under sovereign immunity statutes? Or does the fact that they were only acting under “color of” law, (ie, not actually performing their jobs as cops, merely using the perception of such to allow them to do what they did), does this mean they are personally liable? Any lawyers with knowledge, would be curious to hear from you.

    • IANAL, but looks to me like this kind of crap is *not* part of their assigned job. If their bosses say they are covered since they were doing their job, then the department has opened itself up to a really BIG lawsuit, as well as prison time for the commanders. I suspect they are on their own, even the police union will run screaming from them. And I am left to wonder how anybody stupid enough to carry a running camera into a conspiracy to commit felonies, can possibly get him a job paying a quarter million a year. Amazing.

    • I don’t know how this works in CT or with this department.

      However, in the places I’ve seen a suit like this before generally the officers, because they were on duty and acting in a supposed LE capacity, are covered by a departmental insurance policy paid for by the taxpayers. These insurance policies generally cover all sorts of bad behavior from stuff like this to bad shoots.

      This is part of the problem with the way police are set up these days. In effect the taxpayer that sues is suing themselves because the price of the department’s insurance policy will skyrocket due to the suit meaning that the department will need more money to keep service at the same level and afford the new price of their policy.

      • Being that they are state troopers I assume the state will be footing the bill for their defense and the payout for the lawsuit. I mean not the state, us tax payers.

        I doubt they will be given the axe and throw into the cold to defend themselves because while what they did is egregious, they certainly didn’t do something egregious enough in the states eyes to be abandoned. I think the only success in getting them out would be having them loose their job as a term of the lawsuit and good luck there. Even if you are successful you’d be making even more enemies than you already did.

    • It depends if their conduct is deemed to be standard or gross negligence or with malice. In the latter two cases they can end up on their own.

  12. It needs to be pointed out over and over again that this is just cops doing cop stuff. Normal, every day cop stuff that just happened to be accidentally recorded.

    How many other police conversations are pretty much just like this all day every day?

  13. I had to quit watching half way through. I started getting angry at those government agents.
    These guys would be in the SS if Hitler had won.

  14. ACLU chews assrim. They are a worse scourge than bad cops and are only in it for themselves. They wouldn’t take the case unless they thought they could screw somebody.

    • Team Leader: “Hey lets take this case, lose it on purpose, then our liberal gov buddies can parade it around as settled law and cite it in future cases.”
      Team Lackey: “But if we win, oh the horror…I need my safe space”

    • The ACLU did not take this case because of the gun seizure. They took this case because of the camera seizure, despite the gun seizure. That’s what they really care about, and kudos to them.

        • They don’t care about that, and never did. There are numerous cases that were litigated by ACLU, or in which ACLU was involved on another party’s behalf, that involve guns, and sometimes even revolve around guns. For example, they helped strike down laws that prohibit non-citizen gun ownership or carry in several states.

  15. I agree with others this should be national news none stop on a 24 hr loop. A+ to the ACLU. Funny I actually got a survey mailed to me by the ACLU I filled it out and mailed it back. They did have a couple gun rights questions, but the majority of it had zero to do with gun rights. At the bottom I wrote they need to do more to fight for individual 2nd amendment rights. I gave the example of the AG of MASSACHUSETTS.

    With regard to the police again it’s more then a couple bad apples. Some whole departments are bad apples. The good cops need to do more to push the unions to fire these bad criminal cops. They are a deadly liability to the good officers and the public.

    • What should be illegal is an officer making false statements about the law — I’d say a top-rank misdemeanor, and felony for a second offense.

      And not “knowingly”, either; after all, “ignorance of the law is no excuse”.

  16. Not surprised from CT cops. State Property =! Public Property.

    So much for Liberal CT residents telling me that “the government” is “the people.”

  17. Even a stopped clock…once in a very great while the ACLU gets something right. No thumbs up/kudos or “you go girl” from me. Their balance sheet is overwhelmingly evil…

    • Make no mistake, for the ACLU this is a free speech case, and has nothing to do with open-carry. 2nd does not exist in their vocabulary.

    • How so? They seem guilty of not protecting the second but they fight lots of battles on the rest

      If not then who would be standing against illegal search?

    • Their balance sheet is overwhelmingly enforcing the Constitution. It just so happens that many people on the right seem to think that certain parts of it, like separation of church and state, are not such a great idea (once they realize that this means that, no, they can’t put their religious symbols on state institutions, or indoctrinate kids with their religion in public schools).

  18. sure there was justification…they did not personally like the plaintiff, the plaintiff did not do as ordered and bow to the authority of the angry tough guy police, the Leos knew they would not lose pensions and enjoy top 2% of income earners for life regardless of their law breaking, and would get out of speeding tickets and DUI’s for themselves and their wives forever, and as such had lots of justification to invent charges, violate civil rights of others,and break many laws. one can only hope the same happens to LEOs wives or kids someday so they can feel the pain of the other plebeians.

  19. The citizens of Connecticut voted for the politicians who wrote the laws and, and those same politicians you voted for have no respect for gun owners.
    And the police have no respect for gun owners. Change your politicians and the police attitude will change as well.

    • How so…? Thought-police…? Subversive political agitators..CT Political prisoners..A mob Gathering in Tiananmen Square..?

  20. Curious how the 4th amendment will be applied to the taking of the gun and permit. As it is now, taking the gun is pretty sop in CT, as im told and have experienced myself. Afaik the new law that requires you to show your permit also went through, so any request and you must produce it. Definitely a very tense line there for unreasonable search because we can basically be stopped and have property taken because gun.

    The aclu blurb makes mention of the gun in context of the 4th in the begining bit doesn’t connect it in the end so again it will be interesting to see the effect this case has in that regard.

    • Matt, I live in Connecticut. The law you are referring to was never called to the floor. Therefore, it did NOT pass.

      • Thank you for the clarification Michael, I too am in CT. I couldn’t remember what ended up happening with that particular law.

  21. There needs to be some kind of law on the books relating to abuse of power. It would apply in cases involving cops, lawyers, judges, politicians, etc…

    If you’re in a position of extreme trust and power and you’re caught abusing it, you’re out, can never work in those kinds of positions again and go directly to jail.

    Or maybe just call it treason. People who have the ability to ruin people’s lives by wielding the law should be treated as using the law as a weapon.

    Even though these cops showed clear intent to frame and innocent man, what kind of punishment are they actually going to get?

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