Flipping Off a Cop Is No Crime, Appeals Court SaysSubmitted by fonzdrew on Sat, 01/05/2013 - 02:42
2006, Officer Richard Insogna of the St. Johnsville, New York, police department arrested John Swartz. Why? Because fuck you, that's why. No, really.
Swartz, a retired airline pilot, was passing through St. Johnsville in a car driven by his fiancée (now his wife) when he noticed Insogna using a radar gun to catch speeders. Angered by what he deemed a poor use of police resources, "Swartz expressed his displeasure at what the officer was doing by reaching his right arm outside the passenger side window and extending his middle finger over the car's roof," as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit put it in a decision issued yesterday.
Insogna responded by following Swartz and his fiancée to their destination and ordering them back into their car when they got out. After he checked the driver's license and registration, there ensued a conversation, the details of which are a matter of dispute, that ended in Swartz's arrest for disorderly conduct, a charge that was ultimately dropped after dragging through the courts for several years. Swartz sued Insogna and Kevin Collins, an officer with the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department who participated in the arrest, for violating his Fourth Amendment rights. A federal judge dismissed the suit, concluding that Insogna's decision to pull the car over was justified and that the two officers reasonably believed the arrest was constitutional. The 2nd Circuit disagreed, highlighting the implausibility of Insogna's explanation for pursuing and detaining Swartz: