Police in Westland, Michigan, will face a jury on allegations they wrongfully arrested a woman in a pro-life protest outside an abortion business after a guard falsely claimed she had made a bomb threat.
The ruling comes from U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh, who noted that when the officers were presented with the lie about a bomb threat, from a guard at the Northland abortion center, they never bothered to take any of the ordinary defensive measures required if they believed the threat was real.
“The evidence suggests that defendant officers did not consider the statement to be a true threat as they did not direct evacuation of the clinic, did not request the assistance of a bomb squad, did not request the assistance of a bomb sniffing dog, did not search the clinic for a bomb, did not search the surrounding area for a bomb, did not search the adjacent parking lot for a bomb, did not search the dumpster for a bomb, and did not impound Thames’ vehicle for fear that a bomb might be planted in it,” he wrote in a recent order that requires the officers to be defendants in a lawsuit filed by Kimberly Thames.
According to the original complaint, a Catholic nun who was at the scene verified to police that Thames “never made any threats and that the guard was lying.”
Thames is seeking compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages and more from the officers. The claims originally were filed against Northland Family Planning Clinic and employees “John Doe,” Renee Chelian and Mary Guilbernat, the city of Westland and its police department, Chief Jason Soulliere, officers John Gatti, Adam Tardif and Norman Brooks.
Some of the defendants were later removed from the case.
WND reported 18 months ago when the case developed.
Thames was holding a sign and praying outside the abortion business, as she often did. According to the American Freedom Law Center, which is representing her, along with the Thomas More Society of Chicago, she had a conversation with an unidentified security guard, who then called police and fabricated a story about her threatening the business with a bomb.
The officers arrested her, and she was detained over a weekend.
Robert Muise, co-founder of the the American Freedom Law Center, said at that time, “The city of Westland and its police officers committed the most egregious violation of a private citizen’s civil rights I have witnessed in the nearly 20 years I have been litigating civil-rights cases.”
Muise said the “pain, suffering and humiliation Ms. Thames endured at the hands of these city officials is shocking to the conscience.”
“And Ms. Thames’ unlawful arrest and false imprisonment were instigated, directed and encouraged by Northland and its agents. We intend to hold all parties liable for this injustice.”
Now a judge has ordered a trial.
“Based solely on the absurd and false accusation of the security guard, the police arrested Thames, who then spent 49 hours in the city jail until a detective finally released her after reading the report and concluding, ‘I do not see a direct threat where Kimberly threatened to bomb the clinic,'” AFLC said.
Thames’ lawsuit claims First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and 14th Amendment civil rights violations.
“In his ruling … the judge held that all four city of Westland police officers who were involved in the arrest must stand trial for the Fourth Amendment violations and that two police officers must stand trial for the First and Fourteenth Amendment violations,” the legal team said.
In addition to pointing out that the officers failed to take even the most basic steps if they believed the bomb threat was real, the judge said “a jury question exists as to whether a reasonable officer on the scene could have believed that her arrest was lawful.”
“Also, all four of the arresting officers are potentially liable for the arrest. Sergeant Brooks ordered the arrest. Officer Gatti investigated the complaint at the scene. Officer Soulliere questioned Thames, placed her in handcuffs, searched her vehicle, transported her to the police station and initiated her booking. Officer Tardif took the security guard’s written statement. Under Sixth Circuit precedent, those police officers present at the scene of a wrongful arrest who have the opportunity and means to prevent the harm from occurring, may be liable under § 1983 for failing to intervene to prevent the wrongful arrest.”
The judge also referenced her claims of the officers’ hatred of pro-lifers.
“Based on this evidence of animus against pro-lifers, Thames has raised a genuine issue of material fact in support of her First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim. As previously discussed, the right to be free from retaliation for expressive religious activity is clearly established; thus, Officer Gatti and Sergeant Brooks are not entitled to qualified immunity on Thames’ First Amendment retaliatory arrest claim. . . . Based on this record, there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Officers Gatti and Sergeant Brooks arrested Thames for her pro-life activity, and not because she made a ‘true threat.’ Significantly, defendants failed to evacuate the abortion clinic or make any meaningful attempt to locate a bomb.”
A trial date hasn’t been scheduled.
Muise said the judge’s ruling is significant in at least two respects.
“First, our client’s meritorious case is now heading to a jury, which will allow us to seek significant monetary damages for the pain and suffering these officers inflicted. And second, the judge’s ruling establishes important legal precedent for future pro-life cases. Too often these cases are dismissed because the court finds that the arresting officers are entitled to qualified immunity. Here, to deny the officers this defense, the judge had to conclude that the officers are liable for violating clearly established rights of which a reasonable person would have known, which he did, thereby sending the case to a jury.”
Submitting faked claims to attack pro-lifer activists is not necessarily new. Many times they’ve been accused of trespassing, blocking traffic, or intimidating women, mostly without evidence.
Not even a faked bomb threat is new.
Just a few years ago, a former director of a Tulsa, Oklahoma, abortion business pleaded guilty to providing false information about a bomb at the facility.
Linda Meek, then 63, a former executive for the Reproductive Services of Tulsa, confessed in court she bought an egg timer, set it so it would tick, then put it in her trash can so she could call police and report a bomb threat.