William Barboza, a 22-year-old Connecticut man, pled guilty to a speeding ticket via mail and, on the traffic ticket, replaced the word “Liberty” with “Tyranny” and added on an accompanying payment form “fuck your shitty town bitches.” Town Justice Brian Rourke rejected the guilty plea and ordered Barboza to appear in court. According to the lawsuit, Rourke then chastised him for the language he used, and had two police officers place him under arrest for aggravated harassment.
Barboza is now suing the two police officers in the Catskill-area village over the arrest claiming in a Federal lawsuit that his free speech rights were violated by the arrest. The lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union says the Barboza was illegally ordered to town court, hand-cuffed and arrested. The lawsuit also argues that the definition of criminal harassment in Penal Law 240.30 — communication “in a manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm” — is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad.
It appears that he has a strong case given that the aggravated harassment charge was dismissed back in March, and that the offensive language (although rude) was not threatening or “fighting words”.
What do you think?