Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Kentucky man uses in-pickup video to stop harrassment by Kentucky State Police Lieutenant Phillip J. Burnett

with 2 comments

Case: Gregory v. Burnett, Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 2014

What happened:

The facts viewed in a light most favorable to Gregory are that around 3:00 p.m. on April 4, 2009, Gregory was taking his granddaughter to lunch in his pickup truck. Gregory drove down his driveway/Gregory Lane when he observed a vehicle that he believed was being driven by Lt. Burnett in the middle of Levi Branch Road, about 65 feet away. Gregory stopped his truck while still on Gregory Lane and shut off the engine. Gregory contends that because Lt. Burnett had stopped him without reason three times before, all since mid-February 2009, Gregory had installed a video camera in his truck so that he would have proof that Lt. Burnett was illegally stopping him and harassing him. After turning the engine off, Gregory unfastened his seatbelt so that he could reach up and activate the video camera. Lt. Burnett motioned for Gregory to pull out onto Levi Branch Road, but Gregory did not and waved his hand for Lt. Burnett to keep driving. Gregory’s video, which is in the record, captured Lt. Burnett pulling up alongside Gregory’s truck, approaching Gregory’s driver-side window, and asking for his driver’s license. While reaching for his driver’s license, Gregory pointed a finger at Lt. Burnett and said that he was tired of being harassed. At that point, Lt. Burnett opened Gregory’s truck door, pointed at Gregory, and warned that if Gregory continued to point at him, he would take him to jail. Lt. Burnett told Gregory that his truck windows were tinted and that he was not wearing his seatbelt.

The video captures the following exchange beginning when Lt. Burnett approached Gregory after pulling his vehicle alongside Gregory’s truck:

BURNETT: What’s a going on?
GREGORY: Taking the kid to town to get something to eat.
BURNETT: Do you have your driver’s license?
BURNETT: Can I see them?
GREGORY: I’m sitting here on my own property.
BURNETT: Well, no, you’re not. Because that’s marked right here [pointing to the “Gregory Lane sign,”] and you don’t have a seat belt on. Let me see your driver’s license.
GREGORY: Buddy, I’m sitting here on my own property and ain’t bothering nobody. I ain’t got out on the public road.
BURNETT: Let me see your license.
GREGORY: I’m gonna let you see my license, but I’m just about tired of being harassed by you, now.
BURNETT: Jump on out here. You point your finger at me, I’m gonna take you to jail.
GREGORY: I’m just telling you. Well, take me to jail there and lock me up.. . . .
GREGORY: The gun’s over here, and here’s the license for it.
BURNETT: Let me see your insurance.
GREGORY: I’ll tell you this: You’re gonna quit this harassment.
BURNETT: Do what?
GREGORY: You’re gonna quit this harassing me, because I ain’t done nothing illegal.
BURNETT: Well, let’s see here. Your window is tinted. And you’re getting ready to get out here [pull out onto Levi Branch Road], and you didn’t have your seat belt on. So I can stop you now. Okay?
GREGORY: Where you see my windows tinted at? Where you see my windows tinted at?
BURNETT: Look right here. Look right here. You can’t even see through that.
GREGORY: Well, I can’t help it that you got them dark glasses on and can’t see nothing.
BURNETT: I’ll tell you what. I’m gonna take you to jail for menacing.
Lt. Burnett arrested Gregory, searched him, and placed him in the back of his police vehicle. The arrest was for menacing, but Burnett gave Gregory citations for a seatbelt violation and disorderly conduct.

Gregory spent about three hours in jail before being released on his own recognizance. Gregory appeared for arraignment and an order setting a jury trial date was entered. However, after Bell County Prosecutor Neil Ward viewed the video of the incident, he decided not to prosecute. The parties (the Commonwealth of Kentucky and Gregory) later agreed to a dismissal without prejudice.

Written by Burgers Allday

September 1, 2014 at 9:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. So where’s the video?

    No video

    September 1, 2014 at 7:22 pm

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