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Vermont man arrested for flipping trooper the bird awarded $175,000 in settlement

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A Vermont man arrested after allegedly giving a state trooper the middle finger reached a $175,000 settlement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday, June 26. The ACLU said a state trooper pulled over Gregory Bombard following accusations that he had made the gesture, which Bombard denies, and an argument soon ensued.

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During the incident in 2018, Bombard repeatedly denied giving the trooper the middle finger, which then led to his arrest after the officer accused him of cursing at him. The trooper claimed he was placing him in custody because of “disorderly conduct.”

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“Police need to respect everyone’s First Amendment rights — even for things they consider offensive or insulting,” said Hillary Rich, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Vermont.

The ACLU of Vermont and Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression or “FIRE,” filed the lawsuit on behalf of Bombard. They argued that the trooper had violated Bombard’s First Amendment rights of free speech and also his Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

In a statement on Wednesday, June 26, Bombard said that he was pleased with the settlement and hopes it will lead to better training for troopers to “avoid silencing criticism or make baseless car stops.”

The lawsuit was brought against the state of Vermont and the state trooper involved in the 2018 stop. However, as part of the settlement, the defendants did not admit guilt.

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[TROOPER]

NO, IT LOOKED LIKE YOU FLIPPED ME OFF AS YOU WERE GOING BY THERE.

IT’S LOOKED LIKE YOU WERE DOING THIS TO ME AS I WAS DRIVING BY YOU.

DID YOU NOT DO THAT?

[GREG BOMBARD]

NO, YOU MIGHT’VE [INAUDIBLE] DOING THIS.

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THAT’S THE MOMENT A MAN WAS PULLED OVER AFTER A STATE TROOPER ACCUSED HIM OF “FLIPPING HIM OFF” BACK IN 2018.

THAT ENCOUNTER LED TO THIS.

[GREG BOMBARD]

I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS. SIR.

I CAN NOT BELIEVE THIS. 

[TROOPER]

THE FIRST ONE MAY HAVE BEEN AN ERROR AND THE SECOND ONE CERTAINLY WAS NOT. 

[GREG BOMBARD]

HOW IS THAT DISORDERLY CONDUCT?

I’M NOT BEING DISORDERLY.

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THE MAN, GREG BOMBARD—

ARRESTED AFTER AN ARGUMENT ENSUED WITH THE TROOPER– WHO THEN ACCUSED HIM OF DISORDERLY CONDUCT AFTER BOMBARD ALLEGEDLY YELLED OBSCENITIES AT HIM.

[TROOPER]

HE CALLED ME AN A******* AND SAID F**** YOU. FLIPPED THE BIRD. I’M GONNA ARREST HIM FOR DISORDERLY CONDUCT.

[LAUREN TAYLOR]

THIS WEEK, BOMBARD, WAS AWARDED 175-THOUSAND DOLLARS IN A SETTLEMENT WITH THE TROOPER AND THE STATE OF VERMONT.

BOMBARD DENIED GIVING THE TROOPER THE FINGER.

BUT THE ACLU OF VERMONT SAID IT’S NOT WHETHER HE DID OR DIDN’T USE THE GESTURE.

SAYING IN A STATEMENT:

“POLICE NEED TO RESPECT EVERYONE’S FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS – EVEN FOR THINGS THEY CONSIDER OFFENSIVE OR INSULTING.”

THE ACLU OF VERMONT AND FOUNDATION OF INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND EXPRESSION OR FIRE, FILED THE LAWSUIT, ARGUING BOMBARD’S FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS OF FREE SPEECH AND FOURTH AMENDMENT PROTECTIONS AGAINST UNREASONABLE SEARCH AND SEIZURE WERE VIOLATED.

BOMBARD SAID HE IS PLEASED WITH THE SETTLEMENT AND HOPES IT LEADS TO BETTER TRAINING FOR TROOPERS TO “AVOID SILENCING CRITICISM OR MAKE BASELESS CAR STOPS.” 

AS PART OF THE SETTLEMENT, THE DEFENDANTS DID NOT ADMIT GUILT.

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