Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Man Says He Was Arrested After Criticizing Cheney

By P. Solomon Banda, AP Writer
Read Howards' Complaint (pdf)

(AP) BEAVER CREEK, Colo. A Colorado man filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday accusing a Secret Service agent of arresting him on trumped-up allegations of assaulting Vice President Dick Cheney after he told Cheney the administration's policies in Iraq were "reprehensible."

Steven Howards' lawsuit said the agent arrested him in June a few minutes after he had confronted Cheney in the resort town of Beaver Creek, where Cheney was attending a conference.

The lawsuit said Howards saw Cheney in a crowd, shaking hands and posing for photos. He said he walked to within 3 feet of Cheney and told him, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible," and then left.

In an interview, Howards said he may have touched Cheney on the elbow or shoulder, like others in the crowd.

Minutes later, when he was returning through the area with another son, Secret Service agent Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr. questioned him, handcuffed him and told him he would be charged with assaulting the vice president, the lawsuit said.

When Reichle took him to the Eagle County jail, however, he told deputies to issue him a summons on a state charge of harassment, the suit said. Howards said the harassment charge was dropped less than a month later at the request of the district attorney.

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren in Washington declined comment, saying agency officials had not seen the suit. Lon Garner, special agent in charge of the Secret Service in Denver, said Reichle would not be made available for an interview. A White House spokesman referred questions to the Secret Service.

In the lawsuit, Howards, 54, claims Reichle violated his First Amendment right to free speech and his Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

"It's such a blatant attempt to suppress a right to free speech. Such a traumatic event for my son, I couldn't just let it pass," Howards told the AP Monday night, before the suit was filed.

Howards accused Reichle of "badgering" him about whether he assaulted or touched Cheney.

Howards said he told Reichle, "If Mr. Cheney wants to be shielded from criticism he should avoid public places. I closed by telling him, `If exercising my constitutionally protected rights to free speech is against the law, you should arrest me."'

Howards said he was assertive with Reichle but not argumentative.

The lawsuit asks for money for attorneys fees and damages that include loss of enjoyment of life.

It was at least the second lawsuit filed in Colorado by people who say they were singled out for criticizing the administration. Three people who were kicked out of President Bush's town hall meeting in Denver in March 2003 alleged they were told to leave because of a "No blood for oil" bumper sticker on their car.

SOURCE: Spontaneous Arising

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