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Occupy Kokomo protesters file suit against Howard County sheriff for civil rights violations

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Occupy Kokomo protesters filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Howard County sheriff and members of the sheriff’s department, claiming violations of their civil rights.

The legal action stems from a melee in late 2011 that erupted after two of the protesters informed Sheriff Steve Rogers that the Occupy group would not be protesting at the Howard County Courthouse that day. In the complaint, the two protesters, Darren Burke and Gregory Lambert, both residents of Marion County, assert they were assaulted by the sheriff and his deputies and then falsely arrested and imprisoned.

Burke and Gregory claim the sheriff and his deputies violated their Fourth Amendment rights by employing excessive force in arresting them and by arresting and detaining them without probable cause.

The case, Darren Burke and Gregory Lambert v. Steve Rogers, et al., 1:13-CV-825, was filed by the ACLU of Indiana in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Indiana.

“Most law enforcement officers serve bravely and admirably to protect us and preserve the peace,” ACLU of Indiana executive director Jane Henegar stated in a press release. “However, when these public servants abuse the trust and power, we, as a people have given them, the ACLU will stand up to correct the wrong. In a free and democratic society, no person should be subjected to brutality and abuse at the hands of our government.”

Members of Occupy Kokomo had been protesting at the county courthouse during the last week of 2011, generally staying on the east steps of the building and the lawn. On Dec. 30, 2011, Burke, Lambert and some other members entered the courthouse to tell Rogers and his staff that the protesters would not be demonstrating that day.

Burke and Lambert then turned to exist the building, and the sheriff began walking away. However, another protester, David Fox, asked the sheriff about a court order issued the previous day in Howard Superior Court that prohibited anyone wearing a mask from entering the courthouse.

As Fox was questioning Rogers, the sheriff told Burke to remove the dollar bill which he had taped over his mouth as a sign of protest. At this point, according to the complaint, Rogers attempted to remove the dollar bill from Burke’s face, then the sheriff deputies shoved Burke against the wall, tackling him to the ground and handcuffing him.

The complaint also asserts that Lambert was shoved so violently against a wall by Lt. Kurt Goerges of the Howard County Sheriff’s Department that Lambert suffered a concussion and lost consciousness.

A video was taken by the protesters of the incident. The complaint notes the picture becomes blurred and difficult to follow but the audio is still decipherable.

Lambert and Burke were retained for seven hours and 30 hours, respectively, at the Howard County Criminal Justice Center before being released on bail. Both were charged with resisting law enforcement as a Class A misdemeanor. Additionally, Burke was charged with false informing as a Class B misdemeanor.  

Charges remain pending, although both Burke and Lambert have entered into pretrial diversion agreements under which charges will be dismissed if they comply with the conditions for six months.

 

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  1. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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