07 January 2013

May the Swartz be With You: flipping off cops for fun and profit

Was John Swartz signalling distress or was he expressing contempt for a speed radar trap in the village of St. Johnsville, New York?  He admits to showing his middle finger to Officer Insogna and was arrested minutes later for disorderly conduct.  He was booked and released in short order.  Judy Swartz, the driver committed no traffic violation and was not cited.

All this happened in May of 2006, and the charges were eventually dropped due to lack of timely prosecution.  Swartz sued for false arrest and Officer Isogna eventually had to come up with some reasons for pulling the vehicle over and summoning three additional policemen to assist.

"It appeared to me he (Swartz) was trying to get my attention for some reason," said Insogna.
--No kidding!  I would say that most people making such a gesture want it to be noticed.

Insogna also testified that, "I thought...there could be a problem in the car..."

--The problem was that there was a cop-baiter in the passenger seat.

Insogna went on to testify that he was "...acting to protect public safety as he understood the middle finger to be a distress signal."

--a distress signal?  Really?  If I were a Coast Guard helicopter pilot hovering over a sinking yacht, and the person I was there to rescue from drowning was signalling me with that particular arrangement of fingers,  I just might conclude that he didn't want my help and was telling me to get lost, oh, and also to go *bleep* myself

A Federal District Court Judge agreed with the officers and tossed out the lawsuit.  Appellate Judges found the lower court's decision "absurd", and that the gesture was a universally understood insult and not a call for help. They allowed the suit to go foward.

So according to the Second Circuit US Court of Appeals, you have a constitutionally protected right to flip off cops.

I'm betting, though, that according to Judy Swartz, at least when she is driving, you are allowed to do no such thing.

See the article here:  contempt of cop

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