An Appeals Court Decides That A Guy Who Got A Ticket For Yelling At Police To Switch On His Headlights May File A Lawsuit

An appeals court decided that a man who sued Buffalo police after receiving a ticket for yelling at an officer to turn on his headlights may proceed with his lawsuit.

An Appeals Court Decides That A Guy Who Got A Ticket For Yelling At Police To Switch On His Headlights May File A Lawsuit

The U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision last week overturned a U.S. district judge in Buffalo’s dismissal of the case, finding that the officer had good reason to cite the man for loudness after he yelled, “Turn your lights on,” and punctuated the statement with profanity.

The current decision, which argues that the profane statement made during the encounter in December 2016 can be viewed as an “eminently reasonable” attempt to prevent an accident, sends the matter back to the district court for a trial.

Civil rights lawyer R. Anthony Rupp III stated he had not planned to file a lawsuit over the event at first but had changed his mind after seeing that the same cops had been involved in the arrest of an unarmed man two months later, who had struggled while in handcuffs and died of an asthma attack.

The attorney general’s office concluded in 2017 that there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Officers Todd McAlister and Nicholas Parisi for the death of Wardel “Meech” Davis, a 20-year-old.

However, Rupp stated that he felt compelled to defend the deceased man. He filed a lawsuit, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, and First Amendment retribution, against the city, the police commissioner, and the policemen involved in his traffic stop. Rupp stated to The Buffalo News that all he’s asking for is $1 and an admission that the police behaved improperly.

“When I saw that it was the same two cops who were involved in my incident when they retaliated against me because I (angered) them and Meech Davis (angered) them by resisting arrest, I went forward with a lawsuit that I never would have brought,” Rupp told the newspaper.

A request for comment on the decision was not immediately answered by a Buffalo police official.

At about 8:30 p.m. on December 1, 2016, while Rupp and his spouse were leaving a downtown restaurant, he made contact with the authorities.

When Rupp noticed that an oncoming car was almost hitting two people without using its headlights, he cursed at the driver and yelled, “Turn your lights on.”

Rupp didn’t realise it was a police SUV until McAlister pulled over the car in response, according to court documents.

“You know you can be arrested for that,” McAlister told Rupp through an open window.

In response, McAlister nearly caused an accident, according to Rupp, who said that McAlister shouldn’t be driving after dark without his headlights on.

Following that, McAlister “got out of his vehicle and told Rupp he was detained,” according to the lawsuit.

When more cops arrived, including Parisi, who turned down Rupp’s request to cite McAlister for driving without headlights, the atmosphere became more heated. Rather, Rupp received a penalty for going outside the city’s noise ordinance. After a hearing, the citation was later thrown out.

Rupp claimed that the police commissioner did not respond to a letter he sent the day following the encounter.

“I wrote that letter because I thought these guys needed more training,” Rupp said. “They needlessly provoked an incident. They were in the wrong. They confronted me. They used the power of their badge to cite me.”

In court filings, city attorneys argued that Rupp’s legal assertions lacked evidence.

In a March 2021 opinion, a U.S. district judge expressed concurrence, stating that the officer had reasonable grounds to issue a ticket to the attorney due to his outburst.

“Given both the volume and nature of Rupp’s yell in the presence of bystanders, a reasonable person of normal sensitivities could be annoyed and have their quiet, comfort, and repose disturbed,” the ruling read.

However, in a decision dated January 31, 2024, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit expressed dissent. The appeals court stated that although a “rational juror” may easily interpret Rupp’s actual remarks “as an attempt to avert a possible accident,” a jury might consider the shout to be “unreasonable noise” if all five words were expletives.

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