CONCORD — A judge in the U.S. District Court District of New Hampshire determined that the Gilford police officer who arrested parent William Baer during a school board meeting in 2014 did not violate the man's rights when he arrested him.
Lt. James Leach has been granted summary judgment by the court meaning he cannot be held civilly liable for arresting Baer.
Baer had filed suit against Leach saying his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he was arrested without a warrant for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest following a brief outburst at a school board meeting on May 5, 2014. Leach filed for summary judgment – meaning he asked the case against him be dismissed on legal grounds because there were no true objections over the facts surrounding his arrest.
In Baer's opinion, the book, "Nineteen Minutes" by Jody Picoult, assigned to his ninth-grade daughter as mandatory reading, contained a sexually explicit section that he believed was inappropriate.
Baer argued his arrest caused him embarrassment, emotional distress and mental anguish. Specifically, he said his arrest was broadcast widely on YouTube, that he was detained while crossing the Canadian border, and that his license to carry a firearm was delayed in the state of Maine.
Although the resisting arrest charge was dropped by the prosecution and the state's 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll dismissed the disorderly conduct charge on a First Amendment argument, Baer proceeded to sue Leach civilly in a federal court.
Judge Joseph A DiClerico determined that Leach had probable cause to arrest Baer during his outburst, saying that Board Chairman Sue Allen had repeatedly tried to get Baer to stop interrupting the meeting and then signaled to Leach to remove him. He determined Leach had no way of knowing if Baer's outbursts would continue, which gave him probable cause to arrest him. Probable cause that a crime has been committed and/or the imminent commission of a crime is forthcoming is the only way police can arrest someone in the U.S. absent a warrant.
DeClerico added that the length of the action, which was about 30 seconds, was not relevant to the action itself, dismissing a previous suit cited by Baer's attorney regarding a different and settled case. He said that twice Baer violated the proceedings – once by asking the board questions, which was not allowed, and the second time by interrupting.
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