3/24/2014Oklahoma: Man Fights Back Against Speed Trap Harassment
Man sues Meeker, Oklahoma after the speed trap town harasses him over his warning sign.
The owner of an Oklahoma pawn shop on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against the speed trap town of Meeker because the city's police force harassed him over a sign he put up warning drivers. Out in front of James W. Goad's business, Meeker Supply and Pawn, the sign read: "Slow down, Meeker Speed Trap Ahead." That annoyed the department, so on June 4, 2012, reserve officer Sean Sugrue set up a speed trap on Red Hill Road that blocked the driveway to the store.
Goad asked the officer to get off his property, but Sugrue refused, insisting he was on an easement. About half an hour later Goad left for a meeting he had at city hall with the mayor. Sugrue followed, accosting Goad as he got out of his 1967 Camaro for failing to wear a seatbelt. Goad pointed out that Camaros in 1967 only had lap belts so he could not have seen him commit that crime. Sugrue then accused Goad of running a stop sign. At this point, the mayor and city manager were standing at the door.
"He has an attitude, and I don't do attitude," Sugrue said to the city manager.
The city manager escorted Goad in for the meeting. After the incident, Goad filed a formal complaint, and an internal investigation was conducted. Sugrue revealed his motivation in his own official account of what happened.
"I apologize if my actions appeared unprofessional and showed the town in a bad light," Sugrue wrote. "Mr. Goad needs to know that he does not own the police department and that attempting to get belligerent with a police officer might have some negative effects."
The internal investigation determined that Goad's allegations were true, but it cleared Sugrue since he apologized. He was given a verbal warning, but the feud did not end. On February 16, 2013, Sugrue pulled over Goad, accusing him of driving 45 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. Goad challenged the ticket in court, requesting a copy of Sugrue's personnel file as part of the case on March 6. On March 7, Sugrue ran a background check on Goad with the FBI's National Crime Information Center, and arrested Goad for the felony offense of "making a false declaration to law enforcement" in the complaint Goad had made against Sugrue.
At issue was Goad's statement that he owned the pawn shop, something he could not do as because, Sugrue claimed, Goad had a past felony conviction. The charges did not hold, and both the speeding ticket and "false declaration" charges were dropped last August. Goad fired back by filing suit in the US District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma claiming his rights were being violated.
"Mr. Goad was exercising his constitutional right to free speech when he posted the speed trap warning sign on the property," Goad's attorney, Jack S. Dawson, wrote. "The unfounded speeding ticket and untruthful application for warrant of arrest coupled with the facts alleged herein establish actual vindictiveness, or alternatively, give rise to the presumption of vindictiveness on the part of defendants."
The suit seeks compensation for the official harassment.