Steven Howards and his son were walking by a Dick Cheney event this summer in Beaver Creek, on their way to a piano lesson. Howards told Cheney he didn't approve of his war policy. When Howards walked back from the lesson, passing the site again, he was arrested. Charges later were dropped.
Colorado First Amendment Lawyer David Lane (think Ward Churchill) sued the secret service agent, for violating his First and Fourth Amendment rights. The full complaint is here (pdf). Here are Howard's factual recitations:
6. On June 16, 2006, Vice President Dick Cheney was in Beaver Creek, Colorado, as was Plaintiff, Steven Howards.
7. Mr. Howards was walking in Beaver Creek with his young son who was going to a piano lesson, when he saw Mr. Cheney surrounded by people, shaking hands and posing for photographs in an outdoor mall area.
8. Mr. Howards and his son walked to where Mr. Cheney was standing and Mr. Howards, who was approximately 2-3 feet away from Mr. Cheney addressed the Vice Presidentby saying "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible" or words to that effect.
9. Mr. Howards and his young son then walked away to go to the piano lesson where he joined his wife and his other young son.
10. This encounter with the Vice President occurred in plain view of dozens of citizens and numerous Secret Service agents.
11. Approximately five to ten minutes later Mr. Howards and his other son began to
return through the same area.
12. As Mr. Howards and his son approached the area where the initial encounter occurred, they were intercepted by the Defendant who asked Mr. Howards if he had assaulted the Vice President.
13. Mr. Howards, in shocked amazement, denied that he had assaulted the Vice President.
14. At that point, Mr. Howards, in the presence of his young son, was placed in handcuffs and taken to the Eagle County jail where he was searched and detained for several hours.
15. Although the Defendant told Mr. Howards that he was going to be charged with
assaulting the vice-president, the Defendant instructed the Eagle County, Colorado Sheriff's Department to issue Mr. Howards a summons for harassment under Colorado State Law, for harassing the Vice President.
16. On July 6, 2006, the Eagle County District Attorney's office moved to dismiss all charges.
17. On July 10, 2006, the state court dismissed all charges.
18. At no time during these encounters did Steven Howards ever violate any law, federal, state or local.
19. Mr. Howards was arrested without probable cause to believe that he had committed any offense whatsoever.
20. Mr. Howards was arrested in retaliation for his having exercised his First Amendment protected free speech right to speak out to the Vice President and in retaliation for his having exercised his First Amendment right to petition his government.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Wily P. Daniel.In today's article, Howards says the lawsuit is designed to make a point:
What happened to me was absolute, transparent harassment," he insists. "There's a pattern of people being arrested for protesting administration policies in Iraq, and I find this suppression of free speech a greater threat to the future of this country than Osama bin Laden will ever be. "We felt this situation was laid at our feet, and we had a social obligation to not let it pass."