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HomeU.SVermont Man Arrested After Giving Trooper Middle Finger Gets $175,000

Vermont Man Arrested After Giving Trooper Middle Finger Gets $175,000


A Vermont man who was arrested in 2018 for flashing a middle finger and cursing at a state police trooper received $175,000 this month to settle a lawsuit he had brought against the state and the arresting officer, according to court documents.

The man, Gregory Bombard, 57, of St. Albans, Vt., accused the state trooper of having violated his First Amendment rights.

Dashcam footage shows Jay Riggen, the arresting officer, pulling over Mr. Bombard twice in St. Albans on Feb. 9, 2018, and accusing him of giving him the middle finger. Mr. Bombard first denies it, then does give the officer the middle finger and curses at him. Mr. Bombard was then arrested and charged with two counts of disorderly conduct, which were later dismissed and dropped.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed in 2021, the police circulated Mr. Bombards mug shot to local news outlets after his arrest and towed his car from where he had pulled over. Lawyers representing him said that last Christmas the state police issued another citation ordering him to be arraigned on a disorderly conduct charge in connection with the 2018 episode after the dashcam footage of his arrest was circulated and the police received public pushback.

A local prosecutor declined to proceed with that case, and the citation was rescinded.

Jay Riggen, the arresting officer, and the state did not concede any wrongdoing in the settlement. Mr. Riggen retired from the Vermont State Police effective May 31, according to the Police Department. The state police declined to comment further.

The Vermont attorney general’s office, which represented the state in the case, declined to comment.

Cases involving people raising a middle finger have previously tested the ground where protected free expression meets law enforcement. A federal appeals court in 2019 found that the gesture is a form of free speech.

“Anyone who understands even the most basics of First Amendment 101 will understand that an officer can’t just take action and retaliate against someone, arrest them, put them in a cell just because the person bruises their ego,” said Jay Diaz, a lawyer for Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) who represented Mr. Bombard.

According to the settlement, Mr. Bombard received $100,000, and $75,000 has been paid to his lawyers at FIRE and the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont.

Mr. Diaz said that his client had initially been hesitant to sue, but decided to do so after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 “to expose police misconduct in his home state.” The lawyer said Mr. Bombard was pleased with the result, but still felt the humiliation of the incident.

“This has not left him,” Mr. Diaz said.


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