UNITED STATES NEWS

Man who was ticketed for shouting at police to turn on headlights can sue, appeals court rules

Feb 7, 2024, 2:56 PM

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A man who sued Buffalo police after he was ticketed for shouting at an officer to turn on his headlights can move forward with his legal action, an appeals court ruled.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals last week reversed a ruling by a U.S. district judge in Buffalo who had dismissed the case, saying the officer had reasonable grounds to cite the man for a noise violation after he called out “Turn your lights on,” and punctuated the remark with an expletive.

The new ruling sends the case back to district court for trial, arguing that the profane statement during the December 2016 encounter might be considered an “eminently reasonable” attempt to avert an accident.

R. Anthony Rupp III, a civil rights attorney, said he did not initially intend to sue over the incident, but changed his mind after learning the same officers were involved two months later in the arrest of an unarmed man who died of an asthma attack after struggling while being handcuffed.

A 2017 investigation by the attorney general’s office found insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges against Officers Todd McAlister and Nicholas Parisi in the death of 20-year-old Wardel “Meech” Davis.

Rupp, though, said he felt the need to stand up for the dead man. He sued the city, the police commissioner and the officers at his traffic stop, claiming false arrest, malicious prosecution and First Amendment retaliation. Rupp told The Buffalo News he is only seeking $1 and an acknowledgment that the officers acted inappropriately.

“When I saw that it was the same two cops who were involved in my incident, when they retaliated against me because I (angered) them and Meech Davis (angered) them by resisting arrest, I went forward with a lawsuit that I never would have brought,” Rupp told the newspaper.

A Buffalo police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling.

Rupp’s contact with the officers started about 8:30 p.m. Dec. 1, 2016, as he and his wife were leaving a downtown restaurant.

Rupp saw an approaching vehicle with its headlights off come close to hitting two pedestrians, then referred to the driver with a profanity while calling out: “Turn your lights on.”

It was only after McAlister pulled the vehicle over in response that Rupp saw it was a police SUV, according to court filings.

“You know you can be arrested for that,” McAlister told Rupp through an open window.

Rupp responded that McAlister should not be driving after dark without his headlights activated and told the officer he almost caused an accident.

McAlister then “got out of his vehicle and told Rupp he was detained,” the lawsuit said.

The situation escalated with the arrival of other officers, including Parisi, who refused Rupp’s request to issue McAlister a traffic ticket for driving without headlights. Instead, Rupp was issued a citation for violating the city’s noise prohibition. The citation was later dismissed at a hearing.

Rupp said a letter he wrote to the police commissioner the day after the encounter went unanswered.

“I wrote that letter because I thought these guys needed more training,” Rupp said. “They needlessly provoked an incident. They were in the wrong. They confronted me. They used the power of their badge to cite me.”

Lawyers for the city, in court documents, said Rupp’s legal claims were unsupported.

A U.S. district judge concurred, writing in a March 2021 ruling that the officer had probable cause to ticket the attorney for his shouted comment.

“Given both the volume and nature of Rupp’s yell in the presence of bystanders, a reasonable person of normal sensitivities could be annoyed and have their quiet, comfort, and repose disturbed,” the ruling read.

But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed in its Jan. 31, 2024, ruling. A jury might view the shout as “unreasonable noise” if all five words were expletives, the appeals court said, but a “rational juror” could easily view Rupp’s actual words “as an attempt to avert a possible accident.”

United States News

Work continues on the roof of Gaido's restaurant in preparation for opening for diners for the firs...

Associated Press

In beachy Galveston, locals buckle down without power after Beryl’s blow during peak tourist season

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — Vacuums sucked the water out of the seaside inn run by Nick Gaido’s family in Galveston since 1911 as power was still spotty nearly one week after a resurgent Hurricane Beryl swept into Texas. Blue tarp covered much of the torn off roof. Gaido scheduled cleanup shifts for the hotel and […]

10 minutes ago

FILE - Balloons are hoisted to the ceiling in the Forum ahead of the 2024 Republican National Conve...

Associated Press

When does a presumptive nominee become a nominee? Here’s how Donald Trump will make it official

WASHINGTON (AP) — Monday 12:01 AM Nearly 2,500 delegates are gathering in Milwaukee this week for a roll call vote to select a the Republican presidential nominee, formally ending the presidential primary. It will be a moment lacking in suspense: Former President Donald Trump has already been the presumptive nominee for months, having clinched a […]

1 hour ago

Members of the Coalition to March on the RNC speak during a news conference ahead of the 2024 Repub...

Associated Press

GOP convention protests are on despite shooting at Trump rally

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Activists gathering in Milwaukee for the start of the Republican National Convention say the assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump won’t affect their long-standing plans to demonstrate outside the convention site this week. A diverse range of organizations and activists is expected outside the downtown Fiserv Forum. The largest expected demonstration […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Actor Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair while addressing delegates during the Republic...

Associated Press

Floor fights, boos and a too-long kiss. How the dramatic and the bizarre define convention history

WASHINGTON (AP) — In 1948, the Republican and Democratic parties did something unthinkable in today’s climate of ferocious political animosity: They not only held their national conventions in the same city, but shared some of the props. Both gathered in Philadelphia, largely because its Municipal Auditorium had already been fitted with the wiring needed for […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally, ...

Associated Press

The RNC’s first day will still focus on the economy. Here’s what to know about Trump’s plans

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump goes into the Republican National Convention with bold promises about the U.S. economy, but he has sketched out notably few details about how his plans would actually work. The convention’s first day is still expected to focus on the economy even after Saturday’s shooting at a Trump rally in Pennsylvania […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Wayne LaPierre arrives at court, Jan. 24, 2024, in New York. The second phase of the civil t...

Associated Press

Second phase of NRA civil trial over nonprofit’s spending set to open in NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — The second phase of the civil trial against the National Rifle Association and its top executives is set to begin Monday in Manhattan, with New York Attorney General Letitia James seeking an independent monitor to oversee the powerful gun rights group. The Democrat also is seeking to ban Wayne LaPierre, the […]

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Man who was ticketed for shouting at police to turn on headlights can sue, appeals court rules