By on June 20, 2013

fuckyourshittytownbitches

Remember these names: Detective Steven D’Agata  and Officer Melvin Gorr of the Liberty, New York police department, as well as Town of Liberty Justice Brian P. Rourke and Assistant DA Joe Drillings. I want you to remember their names because regardless of the outcome of  Barboza v. D’Agata & Gorr in United States District Court, those men all deserve to be roundly mocked. Frankly, they deserve to be fired and in the case of Rourke and Drillings, disbarred and then prosecuted for violating their oaths to act constitutionally. I’d call for some tarring and feathering as well, but at a time when those in government mostly use the levers of that government to help those they like and harm those they don’t, at a time of concern over partiality at the IRS and snooping at the NSA, one doesn’t want to be perceived as threatening those on the other side of the thin grey line. You might find yourself prosecuted for criticizing our public servants, just like Willian Barboza.

From Mr. Barboza’s complaint in Federal court:

8. On May 4, 2012, plaintiff was driving his vehicle on State Route 17 through the Town of Liberty. He was pulled over for speeding.

9. In early June 2012, plaintiff pled guilty by mail to the speeding ticket.

10. In August 2012, the Town of Liberty Court sent plaintiff a letter that accepted his guilty plea and provided information for payment of the fine. The letter also contained a payment form for plaintiff to complete in connection with his guilty plea.

11. On or about August 20, 2012, plaintiff filled out the payment form that accompanied the Town Court’s letter. Expressing frustration at the Village of Liberty, in sending in the paperwork in connection with his guilty plea, plaintiff wrote on the form, “FUCK YOUR SHITTY TOWN BITCHES.” He also crossed out the Town’s name, “Liberty” from the form, and wrote “TYRANNY” instead. Plaintiff then mailed in the form….

13. On September 26, 2012, Town of Liberty Justice Brian P. Rourke advised plaintiff in writing that his payment by mail was rejected and that he was ordered to appear in Town Court on October 18, 2012.

14. As directed, plaintiff appeared in the Town of Liberty Court in the early afternoon on October 18, 2012, driving approximately two hours from his home in Connecticut in order to make the appearance. In open court, Justice Rourke held up plaintiff’s payment letter and lectured him about plaintiff’s language. At this time, defendants Steven D’Agata and Melvin Gorr arrested plaintiff for aggravated harassment and placed him in handcuffs inside the courtroom, in full view of the approximately 30 to 40 individuals who had to appear in court that day.

15. Defendants D’Agata and Gorr next escorted plaintiff from the courtroom and brought him to the Village of Liberty police station, where he was booked and fingerprinted and handcuffed to a bench.

16. After processing the plaintiff, defendant Gorr took plaintiff back to Town of Liberty Court where Justice Rourke told plaintiff that he was recusing himself from the case since he was party to it. Defendant Gorr then drove a handcuffed plaintiff to the Town of Fallsburg Court for arraignment. While driving plaintiff to the Town of Fallsburg Court, defendant Gorr told plaintiff that he did not engage in free speech because his written comment on the payment form had offended employees in the clerk’s office.

Fortunately, there was actually someone in the justice system that was more concerned with justice than with punishing someone for hurting the feelings of public servants.  Justice Ivan Kalter of the Justice Court in the Town of Fallsburg is the hero of this story just as D’Agata, Gorr, Drillings and Rourke (remember those names, and mock them) are the villains.  In his ruling dismissing the charges against Barboza, Justice Kalter couldn’t have been clearer that while Barboza’s behavior was offensive and indeed fell under the the statute for “Aggravated Harrassment”, his behavior was undoubtedly protected speech under the First Amendment.

Defendant is charged with Aggravated Harassment pursuant to Penal Law §240.30(1)(a) which allegedly occurred August 20,2012. It is alleged that Mr. [Barboza] signed a traffic payment correspondence with the words “FUCK YOUR SHITTY TOWN BITCHES” written across the top.

The aforesaid section of law is intended to prohibit communication “… with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone or by telegraph, mail or any other form of written communication, in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm.”

Defendant now moves to dismiss together with other relief.

Without doubt the Defendant’s comment was crude, vulgar, inappropriate, and clearly intended to “annoy”. Nevertheless, it is not a threat, it does not contain “fighting words”, or create an “imminent danger”. While it might seem to fall within the four corners of the aforesaid statute, it is nevertheless subservient to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution which provides for and allows a broad range of “free speech” in the nature of opinion and public comment.

Defendant has submitted an extensive brief with numerous citations. However, no citation is necessary for this Court to determine that the language under the circumstances here, offensive as it is, is protected. The charge is dismissed.

My guess is that the only reason Justice Rourke and ADA Drillings aren’t defendants in the Federal civil rights case is due to judicial and prosecutorial immunity but it’s likely that D’Agata and Gorr wouldn’t be getting sued if Rourke hadn’t gotten butthurt and then Drillings hadn’t boneheadedly decided to bring the case to trial and argue in state court that the prosecution was constitutionally proper. Unfortunately I don’t know who the “offended employees in the clerk’s office” were or I’d identify them for appropriate mockery as well.

Judge Kalter’s ruling here. Barboza’s complaint in Federal court. Hat tip to law prof Eugene Volokh.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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96 Comments on “Driver Sues Cops After Being Arrested for Insulting Language On Ticket Payment Form...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Snicker .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      Indeed. I drive that stretch of 17, or “future 86″ as it is called, all the time. It is among the most frustrating of highways I’ve driven. The speed limit switched back and forth from 65 to 55 more times than you can count, and there are 20+ mile stretches with no speed limits posted at all. Even tough I’ve driven it hundreds of times, I still cannot remember which sections are 55mph and which are 65mph. Given that most of the traffic is headed to/from the NY metro area, traffic flows consistently 75+ mph (with many nice cars well above that) which makes for easy pickings in the 55mpg zones for local cops. It’s also just far enough outside the city that most people travel it only occasionally, and aren’t prepared for such speed limit insanity.

      Liberty is a notorious speed trap, with a large Trooper station located directly at the offramp.

      BTW – there’s no word on how fast the ticket was for. But the kid is 22 and from Fairfield, CT. Writing that stuff on the ticket/payment was stupid, plain and simple. And it caused a similarly stupid reaction. Just remember kid, the only ones who win from your tantrums are the lawyers. Cops, judges, and adolescents don’t learn lessons. But lawyers always get paid.

  • avatar
    thats one fast cat

    Where can I send in my donation for his defense?

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Well, it looks like the town of Liberty may have to defer its planned purchase of an urban assault vehicle for its new SWAT — anti-terrorist team, as well as its new surveillance drone to be operated jointly with the FBI.

    Again, please remind me what these people are protecting me from? Clearly not some crazy Chechens who decide to bomb the Boston Marathon.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Charges like these for actions like that are what our officals are busy prosectuing? First World Problems.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Just the typical heavy-handed, law enforcement/judicial system harassment that is permitted (even encouraged) and is now the norm in this country. Yeah, the case was eventually dismissed, but not after severely inconveniencing and embarrassing this poor schlub.

    Look at a cop sideways (or, in this case, write something less than complimentary on a ticket payment). If they feel like it, they will put you in a ‘legal’ world of hurt (for a while, anyway). Welcome to today’s US criminal justice system.

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    It’s a pity that this sort of thing is becoming so common in what was once a nation of law. As it stands, unfortunately, “our” national “leadership” (and obviously state and local “leadership”) are often totally out of control. Sadly, they don’t understand the seriousness of actually breaking the oaths they took before the creator of the universe (God) and man, by swearing to uphold the Constitution of the United States – and then trashing it.

    Yes; I am a car-guy but I am also really a Pastor. Any Christians out there, go read Psalm 94 and understand what our creator is saying about what He MUST do to have true justice, and how it pertains to the poor leaders now abroad in our land (and elsewhere all through time).

    You also might consider reading Hebrews 10:31 for confirmation of Psalm 94:23.

    After that, any Christian readers out there (after having all the blood run from your faces in realization of what is in store for these individuals) might consider writing these cretins to try to get them to repent (i.e. change direction) and truly uphold the law of the land.

  • avatar
    ramjetroger09

    Looks like a violation of his 1st amendment rights to me.

  • avatar
    klossfam

    If you have been to Liberty, NY, none of this is surprising. Liberty is trapped in another time to put it mildly…circa 1964

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Bringing Mr. Barbosa into court was the right move. He clearly had things to say and the court is the correct place for airing those views.
    Having heard his views Justice Rouke probably should have explained that they do not change the guilty plea in any way, that Mr. Barbosa has wasted tax payers time and money and should have added some fines to that extent.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      WTF? THis must be trolling because nothing stated is correct. This was malicious prosecution.

      They had no grounds to require a court appearance and a court of law does not exist for airing personal grievances.
      Mr. Barbosa in no way wasted any tax dollars, that was their choice. Courts can not add fines on a whim. Exactly which despotic nation was your comment sent from?

      • 0 avatar
        Beerboy12

        The guy already admitted guilt to speeding (truth) but he had some problems (clearly) with how the fine as issued. in any court of law you have the chance to “make / argue your case”. Mr. Barbosa had issues with the way his fine was handled the court is the place to take up those issues. I am not sure how that is incorrect?
        Mr. Barbosa’s claim is NOT helpful to his case and therefore a waste of court time and subsequently a wast of taxpayers money (because tax payers pay for the courts).
        I am NOT arguing that the court was correct in it’s handling here at all. Just pointing out that this is a stupid case that has been very badly handled.
        These points are not off topic and I am not inferring some agenda so the troll accusation is invalid.
        “Exactly which despotic nation was your comment sent from?” –> 1st: None of your effin business. 2nd: I find the question personally insulting. It would appear you have let emotion and immaturity get in the way of reading comprehension and rational thinking.

        • 0 avatar
          Cubista

          “…he had some problems (clearly) with how the fine as issued.”

          Clearly he did not, as he paid the fine as issued in the amount specified. Case closed at that point.

        • 0 avatar
          slow kills

          Court is for settling legal disputes, not voicing personal opinions. Barbosa seemed to understand that, whereas Judge Rourke and yourself do not.
          Does it cost a clerk extra to skim over a scrawled comment?
          Litigants pay for court. It’s called court cosst, and it’s usually about $35 for a simple traffic ticket IME.
          (Above meant for Beerboy, as Cubista has proper understanding)

          • 0 avatar
            Beerboy12

            I would think that if you write something on the payment form it has to do with the case… Or is that logic to hard to cope with?

          • 0 avatar
            Cubista

            “I would think that if you write something on the payment form it has to do with the case…”

            That is where your position falls apart. What was written on the payment form had f***-all to do with the case; it had to do with the driver’s opinion of the town.

            Or is that logic hard to cope with?

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      Mr. Barbosa didn’t waste anyone’s time or money. He sent in the payment form, with the payment. Case concluded (or so it should have been).

      He added an editorial comment to the form. It was immature. BFD. Any responsible adult would look at it, say, “well, he’s a bit pissed off”, process the stuff and everyone gets on with life.

      The decision to refuse the payment (which, as a lawyer, I think is in and of itself unlawful) and then to prosecute the malcontent for having possibly offended some sensitive eyes is completely beyond the pale. It is an abuse of the system by small minds who do not understand the Constitution, at all, but do understand their ability to subject those they do not like to a world of procedural pain and expense. They should be fired, forthwith.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    IMHO, this is a case of two wrongs not making a right. The guy was a douche for not just paying his fine and going about his business, or if he felt the charge was unwarranted, contesting it. The judge was an ass for slapping him in irons. The cops were just doing what the judge told them to do, and have no dog in this fight. The second judge correctly dismissed the charges. The douche and the ass should apologize to each other, the continuation of this case in Federal court is a waste of everyone’s time and resources.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I disagree that the cops have no dog in the fight. It’s their job to know the law and they have the right to refuse an unlawful order. The lovely excuse of ignorance of the law shouldn’t apply to them either.

      They should be held accountable for an unlawful arrest.

      If my boss ordered me to do something unlawful, say issue a bribe, I don’t think anyone would be making excuses for me as I headed off to prison.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Cops are not lawyers or prosecutors or judges. Their knowledge of the law is rudimentary at best outside of narrow areas such as traffic law. They did as the judge told them to do, and inside of a courtroom a judge is the right hand of God. The cops have no business being sued based on the facts presented here. They did not do anything illegal, nor did the judge. Judge #1 made his ruling, and Judge #2 disagreed with it and overturned it, which is exactly how the system is supposed to work. It is now up to a civil court to rule as to whether Mr. Douche was sufficiently ‘injured’ that he deserves some sort of compensation. My prediction is he gets nothing. It is his right to pursue this in civil court. *I* think he is an idiot and should sit down and shut up, but it is his right.

        To a large extent, in our legal system laws are not black and white. They are what a judge rules them to be, based on his interpretation. As an example, the Supreme Court just rolled back Miranda rights considerably.

        • 0 avatar
          360joules

          Officers want to do the right thing but also want to feed their families & qualify for their pensions. Telling a judge that you refuse to cuff someone on legal principles would be hazardous to your career.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Well, two wrongs may not make a right, but it is possible for two wrongs can cancel each other out, leaving a net zero.

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    The purpose of the First Amendment is to protect those who, through speech, offend The State.

    Besides, it doesn’t matter if those in power are ruthless and immoral. If we temper our thoughts and utterances for fear of prosecution or persecution (the same thing, really), then they win.

    I’ll say what I like about The State and the “people” who work for it. God gave me that right, and no human being or government can take it from me.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    OR
    The cops got what they intended, a punishment. The driver had to spend some time in lockup and spent a bunch of money on his defense. That’s a lesson he is going to remember for certain.

    It was a dumb move and he paid for it. Town clerks who open those payment envelopes are just…CLERKS who are doing their job. So were the cops, apparently.

    SO, who’s the dunce here? The driver, of course!

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      Yes, the Eichmann Defense.

      “It vas not my fault. I vas just following orders!”

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      Sort of like someone saying the woman deserved to get hit because she had the audacity to talk back?

      Someone saying “your town sucks” after paying his fine doesn’t warrant being thrown in jail.

      It’s disturbing how many people are willing to grant all authority to bureaucrats.

      • 0 avatar
        Cubista

        “Someone saying ‘your town sucks’ after paying his fine doesn’t warrant being thrown in jail.”

        Exactly this. The driver did not use that language toward a specific party, which is the telling element in this. No one person within the town can claim aggrieved status here. The clerk who opened his envelope to process the payment of his fine would have to prove that he or she was the target of the harrassment. If the driver listed the ticketing officer by name and associated his comments to that officer, by the letter of the law they would at least have the provocation needed to charge him (if they wanted to be the dicks about it that they obviously are), but breaking a guy’s balls just for incidental commentary in the act of settling his lawful debt really is beyond the pale for what this country is supposed to be all about.

  • avatar
    Pinzgauer

    Damn I was so sure I knew the person who got locked up since they dont live that far from Liberty and thats exactly something they would do! But alas they’re not from CT so oh well.

  • avatar
    Madroc

    There are several states, and NY is one of them, where the “town justice” need not be and frequently is not a lawyer. I don’t know if that’s the case but that’s what it looks like. Obnoxious or not, you’re allowed to say things like that about state action and actors. I bet this guy gets a few grand for his trouble.

  • avatar
    April 5

    I see someone has their anti government tinfoil hat on today…

  • avatar
    jhurle9403

    This is just petty. If a payment like that had come into my office, I would have probably just laughed and gotten over it. The worst part is these members of the justice system violated rights. I certainly hope the man who was arrested is re-payed for his unwarranted (no pun intended) troubles.

    I’ve always wondered about the legality of certain things law enforcement does, such as telling people on a traffic stop to turn off their car, or put out their cigarette, hang up the phone, or turn down their radio (not when it crazy loud of course, just background). Where are the statutes giving them the authority to do so? The only reason I would is to hopefully NOT get a ticket. So far being polite and cordial has gotten me out of zero tickets. I need to ask my law teacher next semester about these things.

  • avatar
    slow kills

    Seriously, if I mail an anonymous letter to these stooges (Detective Steven D’Agata, Officer Melvin Gorr, Justice Brian P. Rourke and Assistant DA Joe Drillings) at the Village of Tyranny stating “FUCK YOUR SHITTY TOWN BITCHES”…
    1. What are the odds of them launching an investigation to find me.
    2. Does it even matter, given the precedent set?

    Because I really think everybody should do this.

  • avatar
    BarryO

    I can’t believe this guy is getting support here. He should have accepted the fine for speeding, paid the ticket, and let it go. It would have ended there and then. 99 out of 100 of us probably would have done that, if we were guilty. Agree or not, this is still a nation of laws.
    But what he wrote on the complaint was inexcusable. They did the right thing bringing him into court; I think he should have had to explain his stupidity in the court. What he wrote was certainly annoying to anyone who can read; I don’t understand how a judge could drop the charge. First Amendment protection? Really?
    And, Pastor Glenn – I think that Romans 13:2 is more appropriate here: ‘Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.’
    Mission accomplished, Mr. Barbosa.

    • 0 avatar
      Highway27

      Yes, First Amendment protection, really. That’s exactly the point of it. It’s a nation of laws, and those laws mean that the government can not harass individual citizens based on their hurt feelings or vindictive “I must be right” attitude, which is exactly what was done here.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      Conversely, the lesson learned is to never plead guilty to a speeding ticket in the first place.

      • 0 avatar

        Writing a cheque for the amount and mailing it is a form of pleading guilty, but legally, writing a cheque for the amount and mailing it with offensive comments is approaching contempt of court. He has the right to think those things, and to say those things, but not say those things in court.

        I think charging this rude, obnoxious ass with any crime is excessive and unwarranted, but that doesn’t change that he’s a rude, obnoxious ass. We all have the right to offend others, but we have no right to expect them to take it in stride.

        • 0 avatar
          icemilkcoffee

          Well put. If this guy stands up in court and says those things- he’ll be spending the night with Bubba. Instead he does the cowardly thing and unloads on the poor court clerk whose job it is to open letters and process traffic fines.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      Wow. I’m disappointed that there are fellow Americans with this attitude and beliefs.

      I’m not saying everyone has to be a complete ass in every interaction with the “authorities” but the reaction of the “authorities” to the incident pretty much supports the contention that it’s a shitty little town filled with bitches.

      He paid the fine, he did the time, nothing says he has to be happy about it and the US Constitution fortunately allows the State to do fuck-all about it other than waste his time and money with frivolous bullshit prosecution.

      Unreal that people think this proper behavior from State actors.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      @ Barry O…

      He’s getting support because probably just about everyone here except you and beer boy have been in some POS town somewhere hours from home and been victim to a corrupt town and speed trap system purely designed to raise revenue.

      And this kid had the balls to actually tell the jerk off town off. What everyone here would have liked to have done but were too much of a pussy to actually do.

      For that, the kid deserves support.

      Why wouldn’t it be first amendment protection? Do you have any logical factual reasons?

      Because something is annoying, does not make it not protected by the first amendment. Hell, I found your comment so annoying I had to log in and respond.

      And if I were a clerk in some podunk town and you had written that on a ticket, I wouldn’t have tattled to the judge to have you arrested.

      Vulgarity is still speech, and it is still protected by the first amendment.

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    Stories like this remind me of why I repeatedly vote not guilty in jury trials, unless of course a cop or other public jerk is on trial. It is now a joy to waste their time like they’ve wasted my time and money.

  • avatar
    Yoss

    I always just write “Protection and Service” on the memo line of the check so they know I appreciate the way they uphold the phrase painted on their cars.

  • avatar

    Ha ha! Come to Germany, where using the informal “du” when speaking to a policeman instead of the formal “Sie” (both mean “you”) is a sign of disrespect and can net you a 600 Euro fine. Go further and pay a whole lot more. Hand gestures can really get you in expensive trouble.

    I even found a legal analysis of this in English, the abstract of which is as follows (please note that this dates a while back so the nature of the punishable insults has probably changed a great deal):

    The German culture features four traits of character and social organization: order, respect for authority, discipline, and the rule of law. German police not only enforce the rule of law, but are symbols of the State’s authority and the State’s interest in discipline and order. The German police differ from the American police in the powers conferred on them by the State, their public esteem, and their fervor in enforcing the law. Legal infractions involving insults to the German police are comparable to traffic laws in terms of the sanctions applied. The fines imposed can be paid by mail. Insults to the police are viewed under the law as threats to the social order and the State’s authority, and they reflect a lack of discipline on the offender’s part. The insults that are offenses can be grouped under three broad categories: those referring to the eating of feces, an officer’s lack of intelligence, or the officer’s deviance.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      So, if I got pulled over by the Munich PD and told the officer to go eat a bag of dicks, would I get fined for each dick I implied the officer eat?

    • 0 avatar
      darkwing

      Yep, it’s Germany…everything comes back to poop.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “The insults that are offenses can be grouped under three broad categories: those referring to the eating of feces, an officer’s lack of intelligence, or the officer’s deviance.”

      There’s an entire category dedicated to sh1t eating? What is it with Germans and scheisse?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      This sort of thing, along with Germany’s requirement for a relation to German blood to obtain full citizenship, makes me wonder who won World War II.

    • 0 avatar
      OneAlpha

      In all seriousness, I find this unfortunately-not-exclusively-German attitude of, “Obey The State! You have no right to question The State! The State is supreme!” troublesome and tiresome, because it’s almost always sold as Law and Order, or Respect for Authority.

      Law and Order are worthwhile things, but they’re not worth ANY price and as a sapient creature, each human being has the inherent right to question, mock and challenge anything and everything The State does.

      A legitimate activity withstands scrutiny, and is made stronger by it. An illegitimate one withers under the light of day like a vampire.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      The relationship between German police and the citizenry may explain why so many ethnic Germans left Germany to become United States citizens.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    This kind of thing makes me sick.

    Eventually, they’re going to do this to the wrong person.

    Cowardly cops and law enforcement strategically pick on Mr. “Play by the rules”, they wouldn’t dare pull this sh!t on some known thug.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I’d be interested in Det. Hester’s thoughts on this.

    • 0 avatar
      David Hester

      I don’t know enough about the vagaries of New york state law to make an intelligent comment. On the other hand, this is the Internet and ignorance never stopped anyone else, so what the Hell:

      It appears that someone made the decision to stretch the boundaries of what we in KY would call Harassing Communications (KRS 525.080)

      525.080 Harassing communications.

      (1) A person is guilty of harassing communications when, with intent to intimidate, harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she:
      (a) Communicates with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, telegraph, mail, or any other form of written communication in a manner which causes annoyance or alarm and serves no purpose of legitimate communication;
      (b) Makes a telephone call, whether or not conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate communication; or
      (c) Communicates, while enrolled as a student in a local school district, with or about another school student, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, the Internet, telegraph, mail, or any other form of electronic or written communication in a manner which a reasonable person under the circumstances should know would cause the other student to suffer fear of physical harm, intimidation, humiliation, or embarrassment and which serves no purpose of legitimate communication.

      (2) Harassing communications is a Class B misdemeanor.

      Now, for all of that legal gobbledygook up there, the ultimate, original intent of KRS 525.080 is to make it illegal to make hang- up calls. It’s Ky’s version of the “It’s Me Again, Margaret” law, which I think even the most libertarian among us would agree is morally, ethically, and Constitutionally acceptable. The 1st Amendment does not give you a right to be a dick to your fellow citizens and then hide under the skirts of Free Speech. That being said, HC is for low- grade stuff. Direct threats of violence and the like are more serious and would be charged as Menacing or Terroristic Threatening.

      99.9% of the time (in my experience, anyway) that’s what we use it for around here: to prosecute people who keep annoying their ex- significant others with quasi- stalkerish prank phone calls, texts, and Emails. We take it a step further in my jurisdiction and basically require a “positive notification” by the offended party to directly tell the suspect “Do not contact me anymore. Leave me alone.” before we’ll prosecute.

      In other words, you get to leave your ex- girlfriend a voicemail/ send her a text/ post on her Facebook wall/ use some other form of communication informing her that she’s a four- letter word that rhymes with the term for the smallest pig in a litter ONE TIME AND ONLY ONE TIME. After she then tells you that she no longer cares to be reminded that you think she’s a four letter word that rhymes with the term for the smallest pig in a litter, if you choose do it again, it’s Harassing Communications.

      Where this situation went off the rails is that someone (and I’m going to blame the judge primarily) stretched what the “real” intent of the statute was, as the Appeals judge stated. Yes, the kid technically broke the letter of the law, but it was never the intent of the legislature to criminalize this behavior (at least not under this specifc statute.)

      What should have been done instead? Nothing. Cash his check, post a copy of his little temper tantrum in the employee breakroom, and laugh at him. He’s clearly an immature douchebag and until he grows up, his life will be hard. People uncouth enough to write what he did usually have problems with all of the people around outside of whatever interactions the government has with him. I imagine he probably doesn’t get along well with his boss at work, for example.

      Instead, somebody (and I’m guessing the judge) played into his tanturm and looks the worse for it. At the very least, the judge didn’t have the cojones to stick it to him in a way that would have left him no chance at appeal. He should have summoned him to court, baited him until he showed his true colors in open court, and then held him in contempt. I doubt it would have been very hard to sucker him into a long weekend in the clink. Of course, it would have had to have been the judge sticking his neck out a little to play that game instead of stretching a statute passed by the legislature. The way (I imagine) it went down is that he directed the two cops to take him into custody. Kind of a chickenpoop move.

      As for the cops, I’d say they have an out vis a vis whether or not the judge’s order was unlawful. The appeals court judge confirmed that the defendant’s conduct met the letter of the law. They’re not judges. Yes, cops have to know how to interpret the law, but a judge’s opinion trumps mine. If they were directed to take the defendant into custody from a judge sitting on the bench for a misdemeanor offense that technically met the definition of the law, then there’s a little something called “good faith” that protects them. Refusing to follow an unlawful order is one of those things that everyone thinks from TV and movies is self- evident and virtuous. In the real world, the officer better be damn sure before he refuses to obey. That’s how the chain of command works and the whole system is dependant upon it.

      In my world, I can’t imagine a detective or police officer caring enough about the situation to pursue making a case like this on his own. That’s why I’m figuring that the person who created this clusterfark is the judge.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        I would imagine the out for “refusing to obey an unlawful order” is similar to ours in the Army. That clause exists so that when your cherry LT of a Platoon Leader looses it in combat and tells you to take the 240B and spray a schoolhouse full of kids you can tell him to get lost without fear.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “telegraph, mail, or any other form of written communication in a manner which causes annoyance or alarm and serves no purpose of legitimate communication;”

        Detective, if I come to Kentucky and find a way to harasses people via telegraph, do you promise to charge me so I can go before the magistrate and explain :)

      • 0 avatar
        sgeffe

        I thought that if anyone refuses to follow a judge’s order, that said judge COULD immediately throw that person, police or not, in jail for contempt of court, if they so choose.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    He is lucky they didn’t kill him these cops are completely out of control – http://www.policemisconduct.net

  • avatar

    Full Disclosure: I’m a Traffic Attorney and often find myself in Liberty for clients. The Court staff is cordial and the deals are fair, if you challenge the ticket. Pleading guilty was foolish.

    Court staff take a LOT of abuse. The Towns in NY don’t usually write Rt. 17 I/86 tickets, the State Police do, and they don’t have any control from the towns. Worst, is that for a speeding ticket, the vast majority of the money and surcharge goes straight to Albany, leaving only a small amount for the Town.

    The Court clerks are usually female, and are in Liberty. I’ve heard “unhappy customers” many times while in Court and while most folks are scared of the cop and Judge, they will feel free to go off on the female Court Clerk.

    Filing this charge was over reach. Had I been the Judge I would have sent back the check, and demanded an appearance, even to plead guilty. A brief discussion as to etiquette would ensue. Charging him criminally was “over the top”.

    You have a right to question the State, a right to fight the ticket, and a right to make them prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Telling a Court Clerk to F-off is misguided and pointless.

    The fact that he wrote out what every single defendant in any traffic Court is thinking is irrelevant.

    I’ve been an Activist with the National Motorists Association for over 20 years. I’ve appeared in many forums arguing for more fair traffic laws and higher speed limits. This is much more effective.

    I too have been tagged on Rt. 17, so I know how it goes there.

    • 0 avatar
      jacob_coulter

      So basically, those that are “in the industry” get to have a different set of rules.

      If someone says to me “your town sucks” I don’t get to throw them in jail, but someone who’s a bureaucrat at a court house does.

      As a lawyer, do you understand the First Amendment was granted specifically so citizens could criticize their government?

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, I do. If I had said that in Court, I too could be charged, or complaints could be taken to the attorney ethics committee. What “insider” privilege do you see ? You don’t have an unconditional right to tell a Clerk to F-off in rude terms in a Court environment. You do have a right to speak freely outside the Court, protest, write letters, or post to TTAC. The Judge over reacted, the cops followed his direction, and the Fallsburg Judge (who I’ve also appeared before in Civil matters) did the right thing dismissing the case. While one person in power over reacted, the end result was correct.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      Well put. Raging at a lowly paid court clerk who opens your letters, just makes you an as hole.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    “Defendant has submitted an extensive brief with numerous citations. However, no citation is necessary for this Court to determine that the language under the circumstances here, offensive as it is, is protected. The charge is dismissed.”

    So much win in this paragraph. Who wins, you ask? All of us.

    In so many countries that lack the simple personal freedoms we enjoy every day, things could have gone so much worse for Barbosa.

  • avatar

    Wow, it makes me wonder if the town of South Myrtle Beach, SC lost my mailing address. They gave me a citation for an “unlawful lane change” in the middle of bike week (failure to use a signal, nearly $150 including court costs.)

    I included a well-wordered, nearly 2-page long letter with my payment for explaining how imbecilic it was to hand out such happy horsesh*t tickets to their primary source of revenue.

    Maybe they agreed, though?

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    While the prosecution was undoubtedly pwoertripping and heavyhanded, I have to agree that this type of harassment is very rude and misdirected. It’s probably a lowly paid clerk who processes these tickets and checks. He/She does not deserve to be treated rudely for doing their jobs. It’s like yelling at the Walmart store clerk. That poor guy didn’t set the store policies and is powerless to change it. Yelling at him is just going to make a lowly paid, miserable person, even more miserable.

    The other problem is that the court clerk is not allowed to reply back in kind. I would love it if these clerks are allowed to fire back and write “No- fxxk YOU. You’re out $200. Keep flapping your gums, loser.” Free speech only works when there is a level playing field.

    • 0 avatar
      MK

      “He/She does not deserve to be treated rudely for doing their jobs. It’s like yelling at the Walmart store clerk. That poor guy didn’t set the store policies and is powerless to change it. Yelling at him is just going to make a lowly paid, miserable person, even more miserable.”

      There is no “right” not to be offended. Also it wasn’t even in the same league as physically yelling at the clerk….it was written on a friggin’ CHECK. Jeezum crow. FYSTB.

      “The other problem is that the court clerk is not allowed to reply back in kind. I would love it if these clerks are allowed to fire back and write “No- fxxk YOU. You’re out $200. Keep flapping your gums, loser.” Free speech only works when there is a level playing field.”

      Holy crud! We agree!
      The difference being that there was only ONE party in this equation who wields the power of the State to compel you to appear under penalty of arrest and when you DO appear, actually imprisons you! Hardly a “level playing field”, I’m sure you’d agree.
      Yes, it would be nice if everyone was allowed to reply “in kind”.

      Instead you had some little big-man judge drag this schmuck into court so he could “teach him a lesson” about respecting authority, or something equally ridiculous under the most quotidian auspices of friggin traffic court.

      FYSTB

      We’re doomed.

    • 0 avatar
      Dynasty

      @ Icemilk,

      I agree it was a rude comment… But how on God’s green earth could the lowly court clerk be offended?????

      Seriously, it was a stupid hand written note. Not addressed to her. Not addressed to any one person in particular.

      And so be it if she or he were offended. I get offended when people drive by house with bass so loud my windows vibrate. But I get over it in shortly after they drive by.

      The pussification of America continues and continues. Might as well start handing out pink panties to all males when they turn 18…

  • avatar
    rudiger

    Does anyone think that, in all of US traffic law history, Barboza was the first guy to write something extremely rude to the court clerk on his mailed in payment for a speeding citation? As others have suggested, the very worst a (sensible) judge might have done is hauled him into court, bawled him out for what he’d written, then end it right there. I would imagine that would have been more than enough to have gotten his attention and prevent him from doing anything similar in the future.

    But in today’s post-9/11, Patriot Act, anything goes US, the sky’s the limit as to what law enforcement/the judicial system can do to punish someone for anything even remotely resembling breaking the law (‘aggravated harassment to annoy’ has to be one of the most specious charges imaginable).

    At least everyone else gets a new internet acronym out of it: FYSTB. With any luck, Barbozo will eventually get a nice, juicy settlement out of it, maybe even enough to bankrupt the town of Liberty.

    And if ‘that’ happens, you can bet that FYSTB will be written on a whole lot more speeding ticket payments in the future…

  • avatar
    daviel

    That town is a hot bed of fascism. Surely the fact that the defendant enclosed a check for the fine should have mitigated his hot sports opinion with the thin skinned clerks, and what in that berg passes for a municipal court judge [equivalent to minor league A ball)- which turned out to be correct. Kudos to the second Judge who remembered the Constitution and did the right thing.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    According to the town of Liberty, NY’s webpage, one (or more) of these individuals were the one(s) who likely received Mr. Barboza’s missive (and were the ones whose honor Judge Rourke so valiantly defended by having Barboza arrested):

    Town of Liberty, Town Court

    Denise Curry, Court Clerk/Manager
    Nancy Saucier, Secretary
    Lillian Rubio, Deputy Court Clerk
    Georgia Siegel, Clerk to Judge
    Connie VanKeuren, Clerk to Judge

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Put these clowns out of business. NEVER call 911, it just makes you dependent on them.

    We live in a full blown police state now.

    We are wayyyyy “over-protected’

    Fire every other cop now and cancel his 100K a year pension.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    I once worked as a contractor for a parking authority office and can attest that this kind of behavior is more or less routine in bigger cities.

    If anything, this Barbosa guy with his handwriting is an amateur. Real pros has the routine down pat. The girls processing fee payments once showed me a cheque that, while valid, was rubber stamped all over. The stamp read:

    100% Pure Bull$hit

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    So let’s say I own a business and provide some good or service to someone then send them a bill and they pay me but includes a note that says, “FUCK YOU AND YOUR SHITTY BUSINESS.”

    If I went to the police and tried to say that I was harassed and wanted someone arrested and charged over this they would tell me I was wasting their time. Guess it’s a double standard when Johnny Law feels insulted.

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      You would be lucky to get them to take any action if they attached the note to a rock and threw it through your window in many of the smaller towns I have lived in. Roll through town doing 2 m.p.h. over the limit though and they are there though. Looking at you Tyrone, Georgia

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I am sweating…The last time I wrote a check to the IRS I wrote some nonsense in the “for” line of the check. Nothing profane, but enough that anyone who saw the check would know I wasn’t really happy about writing it. If a “shitty little town” goes to this much trouble I think I am in serious doo doo with the IRS.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Don’t worry they already have reviewed all of your personal information and private communications obtained from No Such Agency, if they were going to move on you they would have by now.


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