Harford County Settling Federal Lawsuit for Arrests, Jailing and Strip Searches of Abortion Protestors

From Defend Life, Inc. Association:

Harford County, Maryland Settling Federal Lawsuit for Illegal Mass Arrests, Baseless Jailing, and Offensive Strip Searches during 2008 Defend Life “Face the Truth” Tour.

County Will Enact New Policy Regarding Future Handling of Peaceful, Nonviolent, Protesters and Provide Confidential Settlement to Plaintiffs.

Attorneys representing Defend Life, Inc., its key leaders, and several participants in the 2008 “Face the Truth” tour will announce a settlement with Harford County, Maryland in a federal lawsuit stemming from the improper arrest, jailing, and offensive strip searches that its supporters were subjected to in August of 2008. The press conference will be at 10:30am EST in Lawyer’s Mall at the Maryland State House on Monday, March 7, 2011.

The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit last year, complaining that Maryland State Police, assisted by Harford County and Bel Air city officials, committed lawless arrests and jailing of protesters, including outrageous “strip searches” of several college girls who had joined other pro-lifers in peaceably demonstrating against abortion on the public right of way in Harford County, Maryland in August of 2008. This event has been staged annually by Defend Life for the past decade each summer at sites all over Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

The purpose for the Face the Truth Tour is to educate the citizens of region about the grave injustice of abortion and the killing of innocent children. Hundreds of volunteers from across the region gather at strategic locations and carry large photographic images of aborted preborn babies to show the true face of this barbaric practice.

“This settlement is important for both the pro-life movement and the First Amendment rights of political speakers in general,” said Christopher A. Ferrara, President and Chief Counsel of the Fairfield, New Jersey-based American Catholic Lawyers Association, Inc (acla-inc.org), which is representing six plaintiffs in the action.

The settlement with Harford County includes the adoption of a new county policy regulating the handling of peaceful protesters along with a confidential settlement with each plaintiff. “Harford County has rectified a terrible wrong, and we only hope the Maryland State Troopers and Bel Air Police who participated in this disgraceful roundup of peaceful pro-life advocates, including sobbing youngsters, will follow Hartford County’s lead,” continued Mr. Ferrara.

The American Catholic Lawyer’s Association along with special counsel from the Thomas More Society (http://www.thomasmoresociety.org/) are aggressively continuing forward with it’s lawsuit against the Maryland State Police and the town of Bel Air.

Motions to dismiss the entire lawsuit filed by the Town of Bel Air, Bel Air police officers, the Maryland State Police Superintendent and state police troopers were denied in May of 2010. Some of those defendants filed an immediate appeal, arguing that police acted in good faith and were therefore immune from suit.

The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently rejected that appeal in January 2011 which had been filed by defendant police officers. The appeals court dismissed the appeal on the grounds that material questions of fact were presented as to whether the police defendants acted in good faith. Indeed, plaintiffs already adduced compelling evidence of bad faith, including legally baseless arrests followed by failure to prosecute belated criminal charges, needless strip searches of fully peaceable, nonviolent demonstrators, and 911 tapes and police recordings. The recordings showed how police enforced a “heckler’s veto” (acting on phone calls objecting to the content of protest signs) in making the arrests, and showing deep police bias — with officers commenting “…they can sit in a cell for an hour … or three or four and rot.”

In closing, Mr. Ferrara commented, “We are vigorously opposing motions for summary judgment by both the Troopers and Bel Air police and are responding with motions for summary judgment of our own. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in *Snyder v. Phelps* should send a message to the remaining defendants: if people do not like what they see on pro-life signs, that is not police business, but a matter of First Amendment liberty. The Supreme Court has made clear, people who do not like a particular message should look the other way. If people cannot ‘Face the Truth’ about the horror of abortion, then they too should look the other way…. if they can.

Calling 911 is not the way to engage in debate in this country. The taxpayers are paying for law enforcement, not censorship of unpopular messages.”

Comments

  1. says

    I can’t believe that the Harford County Jail would strip search persons arrested for political protesting. I would assume that all of these people were released after seeing a District Court Commissioner. Something must have gone very wrong at the Jail.

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  2. Getintouchwithreality says

    All jails must, repeat must, search all incoming prisoners for weapons and other contraband regardless of crimes. To not do so would be a grave mistake. The safety of all Detention Center employees and inmates is paramount.

    The release of prisoners after seeing a Court Commissioner is a different issue.

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    • says

      Are you saying that each and every person who is taken to the Harford County Jail is strip searched. That just does not seem reasonable to me.

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      • Getintouchwithreality says

        No, I did not say strip searched. I said searched. How do you know anyone was “strip searched?” I doubt that this happened as claimed. Sometimes people call being patted down or lifting up shirts and unbuttoning pants strip searched. The beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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        • says

          I didn’t say anyone was strip searched… the article for which we are commenting says it in the headline, and the body of the article.

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    • B says

      Most people taken to the HCDC are not strip searched unless they’re getting booked into the jail (and not getting ROR or posting bail) or there’s reason to believe they have crack stuffed in their crack or something (just keep that in mind all you potheads out there…your dealer probably conceals that stuff you’re smoking by hiding it in his ass or in his crotch….just what I want to be putting near my mouth.)

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        • B says

          Not a clue. I don’t know anything about this other than what’s been posted here. I’ve taken enough prisoners to the HCDC to know that they don’t strip search everyone.

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  3. newbie says

    I agree with RETIREDAWHILE. I have had the unfortunate displeasure of being at HCDC twice! They do not strip search you unless they are going to put you in population. They do a routine pat down to keep you in the booking cell. Once you see the commissioner and it is believed you are not being released or bailed they then strip search you before you put on the stripes. It is unreasonable to suggest that these strip searches were within normal protocal. The main question is why were they arrested?!? For excersizing freedom of speech! You gotta love life up here in Hazard County!

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  4. Henry says

    Just more of our tax dollars thrown away because of police ignorance. I thought police were supposed to know the law. Just another blunder from Bane’s leadership……..

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    • Bob says

      Henry,

      Seriously, you put this on Jesse Bane? Should he install mind control devices in their minds to prevent stuff like this?

      Really?

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    • JustAMom says

      I believe that it was the Maryland State police, because the peaceful demontration was on a state road Route 24, that started this whole chain of events, not the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. BTW, a few years before these arrests, this same group was harrassed by the Maryland State Police on Route 22 near the college.

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      • says

        I believe you are correct, however, the jail does belong to the Sheriffs Office, and under the supervision of Sheriff Bane. And no, I don’t believe the Sheriff should install mind control devices in deputies heads, however, proper training regarding when a strip search is legal would certainly be in order!!

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  5. Brenda says

    What if I don’t want my children to see the message the signs were showing? I think its a parents right to choose what their kids see and don’t see. I think the police acted responsibly to support the wishes of our community.

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    • says

      Good heavens Brenda, you can’t really be serious. If you had a sign and I did not want my children to see it, you believe it is right to have you arrested, taken to jail and strip searched. I am part of the community and I would never ask that anyone be arrested for simply carrying a sign just because I disagreed with the message.

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    • dcfattboy says

      well gee brenda, the police are not your personal gestapo; there is a thing called the 1st amendment, and if you don’t like freedom of speech then maybe you need to move to a police stae country with no constitution

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  6. newbie says

    Sounds like you should keep your children at home if you don’t want them to see what the public considers legal!

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  7. The Quiet man says

    I would like to know how much of a confidential settlement is being made with each of the plaintiffs. I do not see how it can be confidential when it is the taxpayers money.

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    • says

      Without being specific regarding the settlement with each individual, we should at least be told the total cost to the taxpayers of Harford County. If State Police were involved, it seems that the state should be helping with this settlement.

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  8. frankly speaking says

    sheriff, county, bel air and md are separate agencies. county/sheriff are part of this settlement. the other agencies have not settled civil suit. it would be fair to assume that the county feels that paying them off now is worth the legal fight and potential loss in th end anyway.

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      • dcfattboy says

        i would rather know how much of my (and your) tax money is going to pay for these abortions? let the father responsible for the “unplanned pregnancy” pay for the procedure.

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        • frankly speaking says

          Your tax money and mine pays for lots of things that I don’t particularly want either. the protest wasn’t about funding for abortions and the article is more about unlawful arrest and supression of free speech. I rather not pay for bombs and tax breaks for oil companies, but yet those seem to happen and you tea baggies have no problem with that. Since you dont’ want to pay for the abortions, would you rather pay for the food, housing, education and other services needed?

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          • Porter says

            @Billy Jack – Yes let’s applaud a fool like Frankly Speaking who espouses a belief that the decision to abort a fetus turns on who pays the cost “for the food, housing, education and other services needed” if the baby is born.

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      • frankly speaking says

        You don’t have the right to know the amount since other parties to the suit are still going through the legal process and there is probably a “keep silence” clause regarding the terms. In all, you don’t have the right to know the cost but you do have the right to ask the question. The Freedom of Information Act won’t apply to this case, so don’t even bother bringing it up.

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        • says

          Well thanks “Frankly Speaking” for letting me know what my rights are, and kudos to County Attorney Rob McCord, who is quoted in the Aegis (3/9/11) as stating he will discuss the case “including the financial settlements the county has reached” with the protesters, after all parties have concluded the suit.

          County Attorney Rob McCord knows the right thing to do, even though you believe we have no right to know. It is always nice when someone does the right thing.

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  9. Middleoftheroader says

    Abortion is definitely not in the top 10 concerns of most Americans. There are so many more important issues out there now. Are any of these Face the Truth members soliciting donations for unwanted children who’s parents can’t afford to or choose not to care for their kids? Keep the damn religious right out of politics and in leave them in houses of worship!

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  10. FatheroffourHarford says

    I would respect this group FACE THE TRUTH if they donated all their settlement $ to a charitable group such as Foster Parents of America or some orphanage.

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