Officer pleads not guilty to disorder...

Officer pleads not guilty to disorderly conduct charge -- themo...

There are 48 comments on the The Morning Call story from Aug 24, 2007, titled Officer pleads not guilty to disorderly conduct charge -- themo.... In it, The Morning Call reports that:

A North Catasauqua police officer pleaded not guilty Friday to a summary disorderly conduct charge for a tirade he allegedly leveled against a woman in Catasauqua he believed had made a obscene gesture at him.

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Seoul, Korea

#51 Aug 24, 2007
'Shooting the bird' may be rude, but it's not a crime
By The Associated Press
HOUSTON — A Texas appeals court has overturned the conviction of a man who was found guilty of disorderly conduct for displaying an offensive gesture referred to as "shooting the bird."
Two years ago, Robert Lee Coggin was charged under an obscure state law that says "a person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly makes an offensive gesture or display in a public place, and the gesture or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace."
Coggin, 34, was accused of gesturing at a motorist with his middle finger raised as he drove behind the slow-moving vehicle on U.S. 183 in Lockhart.
Last year, a jury found him guilty of disorderly conduct, saying that he incited an immediate breach of peace with the gesture. The jury fined him $250.
The appeals court in its Oct. 9 ruling said that the gesture is rude, but not necessarily disorderly conduct. It ordered that Coggin be acquitted of the charges, the Houston Chronicle reported in today's editions.
The incident happened in October 2001 in Lockhart. Coggin was tailgating a vehicle driven by John Pastrano, a Caldwell County jailer. Coggin followed Pastrano's car, flashing his lights, and then motioned for the car to move to the right lane, according to court records.
Pastrano pulled over thinking he was being stopped by a police car. As Coggin passed Pastrano, he gestured with his raised middle finger, courts records said.
An angry Pastrano said he called 911. Police stopped Coggin and cited him for disorderly conduct, a Class C misdemeanor.
Pastrano, 24, who now works for the Hays County Sheriff's Department in San Marcos, could not be reached for comment yesterday by the newspaper.
Coggin denies he made the gesture, but says he's glad he spent $15,000 in legal fees to fight the conviction.
"It vindicates me," said Coggin, now an electrical engineer in Austin.

Seoul, Korea

#52 Aug 24, 2007
The Court reached a similar result in 1974 in Lewis v. City of New Orleans. Mallie Lewis was convicted under a city law which prohibited using “obscene or opprobrious language” to police officers. Lewis was arrested after she yelled obscenities at a police officer who asked her husband to produce his driver’s license.

Justice Brennan determined that this law infringed on First Amendment freedoms because it was not confined to fighting words. He reasoned that “the proscription of the use of ‘opprobrious language,’ embraces words that do not ‘by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.’” Brennan ruled that the Louisiana Supreme Court had failed to confine the statute to just fighting words.

The Court again struck down the conviction of an individual for making offensive comments to a police officer in 1987 in City of Houston v. Hill, Raymond Wayne Hill was arrested after he yelled at a police officer who was questioning his friend. Hill said to the officer:“Why don’t you pick on somebody your own size?”

The officer arrested Hill for violating a city law prohibiting a person from opposing, molesting or abusing, or interrupting a police officer during his duties.

After Hill was acquitted in municipal court, he filed a civil rights lawsuit. In his lawsuit, he asked that the federal courts declare the ordinance unconstitutional. The case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court which sided with Hill. Before the high court, the city argued that the ordinance prohibited “core criminal conduct.”

The Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the ordinance dealt with speech.“Contrary to the city’s contention, the First Amendment protects a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police officers,” Brennan wrote.

“The freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state,” Brennan wrote.

Brennan determined that the law was not narrowly tailored to prohibit disorderly conduct or fighting words. The court concluded that the ordinance “criminalizes a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech, and accords the police unconstitutional discretion in enforcement.”

As a result of these Supreme Court decisions, many state and local governments have amended their statutes to narrow significantly the range of verbal conduct that can be criminalized. Many state supreme courts have limited their laws to apply only to fighting words.

Much of the case law now centers on whether a person’s speech qualifies as fighting words. The government tends to argue that the person was charged not for his speech, but for his conduct — flailing of arms or shouting of specific unprotected threats, for example.

In the 1992 cross-burning case of R


#53 Aug 24, 2007
The officer was at fault , clearly
What happend to our freedom of speech and expression , Telling a officer hes a dirty pig would fall under that however if you do ever call a officer a pig or a ahole , most all officers will charge you with disorderly conduct , so you tell me is it disoderly or freedom of speech ? I feel even if the young woman had gave the off duty officer the finger she has the freedom to have that opinion .He is border line road rage as well .Rambo strikes again

Bangor, PA

#54 Aug 25, 2007
this is only the first of many problems to come with "officer" varga. get rid of this clown! i know who you really are tim. you can't hide behind your plastic badge forever.

Since: Apr 07

Allentown P.a

#55 Aug 25, 2007
Like I said what right did this guy have to do this. On or off duty, he should have no right to pull someone off the road just for giving the finger, right? Which I'm pretty sure she did, she just didn't think he was going to act like he did. By the way, was he in a police car? I didn't read that in the article. If not then he should have no right to do this. She could have thought he was like anybody else.

“Wie bist du?”

Since: Jun 07

Location hidden

#56 Aug 25, 2007
Trinny Apple wrote:
Like I said what right did this guy have to do this. On or off duty, he should have no right to pull someone off the road just for giving the finger, right? Which I'm pretty sure she did, she just didn't think he was going to act like he did. By the way, was he in a police car? I didn't read that in the article. If not then he should have no right to do this. She could have thought he was like anybody else.
According to the article he was off duty in his personal vehicle.

If he did what the article says he did, then he had no right and he was wrong.

The result of this alleged conduct was that he was cited and some form of discipline was taken by his department for his actions.

The rest of the story has yet to unfold.

Since: Jun 07

Allentown, PA

#57 Aug 25, 2007
Smedley wrote:
<quoted text> I smell a squid. I earned my Eagle, Globe and Anchor in 1967.
You were in Canada back then hiding.

Whitehall, PA

#58 Aug 27, 2007
If the person that was doing the flipping, was actually in hte drivers words, pointing to her house then why didn't the driver go to that house? Why did she just continue down the road. There is more to this story... Guess it will all come out in court.

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