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PITTSBURGH - The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit today on behalf of a Fayette County man who was arrested earlier this year for using his cell phone to audio-record a police officer. The suit alleges that the Point Marion Police Department filed retaliatory charges against Gregory Rizer after he complained to the mayor about the officer, who confiscated his cell phone and detained him for recording the officer’s aggressive questioning of his disabled friend. The charge was withdrawn by the district attorney and the cell phone was returned – without the recording.
The Fayette County District Attorney withdrew all criminal charges against Rizer on February 22. When Rizer went to the police department a month later to retrieve his phone, he discovered that the SIM card – the external storage drive for the phone that contained the recording he had made of Officer Lukart questioning his friend – was missing. “This case smacks of unconstitutional retaliation,” said Sara Rose, ACLU-PA staff attorney. “Not only did the police retaliate against Mr. Rizer for exercising his First Amendment right to record a police officer who he believed was inappropriately questioning his friend, but they filed a baseless charge against him after he complained to the mayor about police misconduct.” The lawsuit alleges that the actions of Officer Lukart and Point Marion officials violated Rizer’s First and Fourth Amendment rights by retaliating against him for legitimately gathering information about police activities and confiscating his cell phone. It further charges that Mayor Ables and Chief Stutler retaliated against Rizer for exercising his First Amendment right to report police misconduct when he was arrested following his complaints about Officer Lukart to Ables.
The case is Rizer v. Lukart, et al. More information about the case, including a copy of the complaint, can be found at: http://www.aclupa.org/legal/legaldocket/rizervlukart.htm