‘Contempt’ for Not Standing on a Broken Leg

     RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – A man who was eating a taco at a Raleigh bus stop says a cop swept-kicked him to the ground, broke his leg and arrested him, then hauled him before a judge who sentenced him to 30 days in jail for contempt, because he could not stand on his broken leg.     Lynwood Earl Artis sued Raleigh police Officer James Rollins, Wake County and its sheriff, and others, in Federal Court.     Artis said that after buying his dinner at the Armadillo Grill, he “quietly began to eat his taco, waiting for the bus,” when Rollins “approached Artis on foot … and asked if a beer was his.”     “Artis leaned forward and saw what appeared to be a discarded can of beer that had been concealed from his view” by a newspaper rack. He says he told Rollins, “‘Why, Officer, if that beer were mine, I would be enjoying it with my meal.’” And he resumed eating his taco.     He says Rollins asked him for ID, then “Without either warning or being told he was under arrest, Rollins grabbed Artis by his still taco-laden arm, and spun Artis around with great force, which pivoted Artis on his left leg and sent the hapless taco flying.     “Rollins twisted Artis’ arm behind his back and then swept-kicked Artis’ legs from the side and threw him to the ground.     “All of Artis’ weight was still on his left leg from being spun by Rollins, and Artis felt and heard his lower left leg sicken[ing]ly crack when Rollins swept-kicked him.”     Artis adds that he “was not in possession of a deadly weapon; he was, however, in legal and actual possession of a taco, which Artis did not wield in any threatening manner.”     Artis was taken to the Wake County Detention Center, where, unable to get out of the car on his own, and at his own insistence, he was put into a wheelchair. He was charged with “misdemeanor open container malt beverage and disorderly conduct,” then wheeled before a magistrate at 10:10 p.m. It was Sept. 11, 2010.     He says sheriff’s deputies “continued to heckle” him as he was wheeled into court – they told him there was nothing wrong with him. Artis told the judge that “he could not stand because his leg was broken.” He was “in serious and intense pain because of his shattered leg, was confused as to why he had been arrested, was extremely frustrated by the heckling, that no one believed he was seriously hurt, and that he was not getting urgently needed medical attention.”     It took Magistrate Bostrom 4 minutes to find Artis in contempt of court and sentence him to 30 days in jail, with no bond, Artis said. Eleven minutes later, Bostrom agreed to set bond at $1,000, according to the complaint.     Artis spent the night in jail without medical attention and, says that “several times during Artis’ stay in the holding cell he had to urinate on the floor where he lay” because jailers would not bring him a wheelchair.     Nearly 12 hours after he was arrested, a nurse finally inspected his leg and “observed … that Artis’ left leg could not bear weight; that his left knee and lower leg area was swollen and deformed; and that parasthesia was noted.” The nurse ordered him to be sent immediately to a hospital emergency room.     Artis had pins inserted in his leg and “awoke from surgery to find his belongings next to his hospital bed and a nurse informed him that he was no longer in custody.”     He says that Officer Rollins refused to testify at the trial and all charges were dropped, “with a note in the file stating that ‘Rollins said he will not testify b/c he does not recall incident.’”     Artis seeks punitive damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, battery, malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is represented by Eric Doggett and Gregory Kash of Raleigh and Billy Strickland II of Goldsboro.

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‘Tea Bagging’ Student Can’t Prevent Transfer

     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – A federal judge has declined to issue a preliminary injunction to a high school student hoping to prevent his transfer to another school after being implicated in a “tea bagging” hazing ritual.     U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz ruled the student “is so unlikely to prevail on the merits of his procedural due-process claims that, even if he will suffer irreparable harm from the transfer … a preliminary injunction is not warranted.”     In a lawsuit filed in May 2011, the student, identified only as J.K., claimed his transfer by officials of the Minneapolis School District, was a “de facto expulsion” that violated his due-process rights by “preventing him from continued attendance at Southwest High School, depriving him of continued participation in varsity athletics, and causing damage to his reputation and good name.”     J.K. faces the transfer because of a hazing incident that occurred during a high school baseball team trip to Florida in March 2011.     While on the trip, J.K. allegedly held down a member of the team while another boy exposed his genitals and rubbed them in the restrained teammate’s face. The act is a frat house-style prank commonly referred to as “tea bagging.”     After an investigation of the incident, J.K. was found to be an accomplice to the act and, because the school thought expulsion was too harsh of a punishment, the student was told he would be “administratively transferred” to a different school.     To Schiltz the question raised by the case, “for due-process purposes, is whether J.K.’s transfer … deprives him of his property interest, under Minnesota law, in a public education.”     Schiltz found that “to argue that attending a high school other than Southwest would deprive J.K. of a public education – that is, of any public education – is tantamount to arguing that all high-school students in the District who are not attending Southwest are themselves not receiving a public education. The argument is meritless.”     J.K. also claimed that the transfer would prevent him from continuing in varsity athletics.     But here too the judge found the argument less than compelling.     “If that a student has no rights to take classes at a particular school, a student likewise has no right to play sports at a particular school. J.K. therefore has no property interest in playing interscholastic sports at Southwest, at most, he has a property interest in playing interscholastic sports somewhere,” he wrote.     Finally, J.K. argued that the transfer would harm his reputation and standing in the community.     In considering the claim, Schiltz explained that for a reputation-based procedural-due-process claim to be successful in this case, J.K. had to establish that the transfer will inflict both of two types of harm on him: (1) damage to his reputation and (2) a tangible burden of some kind.”     Schiltz acknowledged that the transfer would constitute a tangible burden on the student, but he also noted that “after his transfer, [J.K.’s] academic record will simply show that he transferred from one school to another and will not provide a reason for the transfer …”     “Thus, there is no evidence in the record to show that in transferring J.K., the District will communicate any stigmatizing information that will harm J.K.’s reputation,” Schiltz said.J.K., who filed the lawsuit by and through his parents, Donald Kaplan and Thea Lucille Nelson, is represented by Atlee Reilly of the School Law Center.

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Florida Felon Gets Court’s OK on Antique Gun

     TALLAHASSEE (CN) — A convicted felon should not have been charged with possession of a firearm after he was found hunting with an antique muzzleloader, Florida’s highest court ruled.     While the Sept. 22 ruling upheld a lower court’s decision to vacate the conviction, the Florida Supreme Court did not agree with its finding the state’s law regarding antique firearms unconstitutional.     Christopher Weeks was arrested by a state Fish and Wildlife officer in the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area near Pensacola, Fla., on February 4, 2012, and charged with one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.     Weeks eventually pleaded no contest to the charge, although he and several members of his family testified that their research indicated he was allowed to hunt with a gun that employed a “percussion cap ignition system … because it was a replica of an antique firearm.”     The trial court sentenced Weeks to three years’ probation, but the First District Court of Florida eventually overturned the conviction.     The statute in question was passed in 2012, and makes it illegal for a convicted felon to own or possess a firearm.     However, the statute includes the following exception: “The term ‘firearm’ does not include an antique firearm unless the antique firearm is used in the commission of a crime.”     In the statute, an “antique firearm” is defined as “any firearm manufactured in or before 1918 (including any matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar early type of ignition system) or replica thereof.”     Although the weapon possessed by Weeks was fitted with a modern scope, the district court ruled “that ‘the firing or ignition mechanism of the firearm determines whether a firearm qualifies as an ‘antique firearm’ or a replica thereof.’”     The district court also agreed with Weeks’s assertion that the statute is unconstitutionally vague, after it determined that a plain language definition of the term “replica” did not adequately delineate what type of firearm may be carried by a convicted felon.     Florida Supreme Court Justice Barbara Pariente agreed that the dictionary definition of replica “does not favor one conclusion over another as to what constitutes a permissible replica of an antique firearm,” and pointed out that the rule of lenity compels the court to construe the term in favor of the defendant.     “One reasonable construction of the term may lead to an interpretation that ‘replica’ means an exact copy in every respect,” she wrote. “Another reasonable construction of the term … is that section 790.001(1) emphasizes the ignition system as the distinctive feature of an ‘antique firearm,’ and therefore requires that the firearm possess a certain type of ignition system explicitly mentioned by the statute. In short, the statutory term ‘generate[s] differing reasonable constructions,’ which require application of the rule of lenity.”     The “reasonable constructions” advanced by Justice Pariente in her opinion ultimately led her to overturn the lower court’s ruling that the statute — and specifically the exception for antique or replica firearms — is unconstitutionally vague.     Justice R. Fred Lewis dissented from the majority, and wrote that because the rifle “featured a scope that was not found on weapons that were available in 1918 … such a firearm cannot constitute an antique firearm as defined by Florida law.”     “A nonlegal dictionary defines ‘replica’ as ‘an exact copy in all details,’” he wrote. “Thus … plain language and common sense dictate that a replica should, at the very least, look like the original object. I would conclude that the addition of a modern scope to an otherwise-antique firearm removes this firearm from the exception provided for antique firearms by the Legislature.”

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