A Perry County man who was acquitted of a charge that he cursed at children and caused a ruckus at a church Easter egg hunt can’t sue the cop who cited him, a federal judge has ruled.
That is so even though the filing of that citation might have violated Lance Farmer’s free speech rights, U.S. Middle District Judge Yvette Kane found in dismissing the Marysville man’s civil rights lawsuit.
Ultimately, Kane concluded state Trooper Matthew Decker is legally immune from the suit the 42-year-old Farmer lodged after his disorderly conduct charge was tossed out.
As the judge noted, the suit stemmed from what happened during an April 4, 2015 egg hunt at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Marysville.
Decker was called to investigate after the wife of borough police Chief Aaron Richards claimed Farmer had confronted her during the event and loudly called her children “liars and little (expletives),” Kane wrote. Other witnesses supported her claims.
Decker, who didn’t know Farmer, claimed he wasn’t able to reach Farmer to hear his side of the story before filing the disorderly conduct citation.
More than a year later, District Judge Michael Schechterly dismissed the charge, although as Kane noted, Schechterly called Farmer’s behavior at the egg hunt “totally inappropriate and particularly reprehensible given that it was in a church setting.”
In arguing his case, Farmer insisted Decker charged him because the trooper is a Christian who was personally offended by his words and actions.
Kane found no proof of such a bias. Decker is entitled to immunity because he was acting fully within his duties as a police officer when he cited Farmer, she concluded.
Based on his interviews with multiple witnesses, Decker had reason to believe there was probable cause to file the charge, the judge decided.
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