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.
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