A federal judge in Richmond, Va., has refused to dismiss from a lawsuit several FBI and Secret Service agents as well as local police officers who arrested a military veteran based on an opinion from a counselor who had never met him that he might be a danger.
The officers had confronted the veteran, Brandon Raub, after he expressed criticism of the U.S. government on a social networking page.
They arrested Raub and kept him in custody for an evaluation based on the long-distance opinion from Michael Campbell, a psychotherapist hired by the local county. But when the case came before a judge, his ruling found the concerns raised by the officers were “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”
Raub then sued the officers for taking him into custody.
The latest ruling rejected a request by the officers to end the case.
“Brandon Raub’s case exposes the seedy underbelly of a governmental system that continues to target military veterans for expressing their discontent over America’s rapid transition to a police state,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.
“While such targeting of veterans and dissidents is problematic enough, for any government official to suggest that they shouldn’t be held accountable for violating a citizen’s rights on the grounds that they were unaware of the Constitution’s prohibitions makes a mockery of our so-called system of representative government. Thankfully, Judge Hudson has recognized this imbalance and ensured that Brandon Raub will get his day in court,” he said.
The decision came from U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, who essentially said there is not enough information at this point in the case to dismiss the law enforcement defendants. He ordered limited discovery.
The Rutherford Institute called the decision a victory for free speech and the right to be free from wrongful arrest.
Raub, a decorated Marine, had been taken into custody by “a swarm” of FBI, Secret Service agents and local police and forcibly detained in a psychiatric ward for a week because of controversial song lyrics and political views posted on his Facebook page, Rutherford reported.
Hudson said the Rutherford Institute, which is representing Raub, had alleged sufficient facts to indicate that the involuntary commitment violated his rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourth Amendments.
Institute attorneys had filed the civil rights lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Raub, alleging that his seizure and detention were the result of a federal government program code-named “Operation Vigilant Eagle” that involves the systematic surveillance of military veterans who express views critical of the government.
The complaint alleges that the attempt to label Raub as “mentally ill” and his subsequent involuntary commitment was a pretext designed to silence speech critical of the government.
It was Aug. 16, 2012, when Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about his Facebook posts. Like many Facebook users, Raub, a Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions.
Without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will.
The Institute reported in a hearing on Aug. 20, government officials pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the reason for his incarceration. While Raub stated that the Facebook posts were being read out of context, a special justice ordered Raub be held up to 30 more days for psychological evaluation and treatment.
But Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett ordered Raub’s immediate release a short time later, and the lawsuit was initiated.