Judge sides with officer in brutality case

By Justin Anderson | Apr 29, 2009

HUNTINGTON – A federal judge has tossed a Huntington preacher's lawsuit against a city police officer that charged the officer with brutality.

Federal Judge Robert Chambers said in his opinion April 23 that Richard K. Revely's own recounting of the facts of the incident involving Sgt. D. Booth do not support his claims that his constitutional rights were violated.

In 2007, Revely sued the city, the police department and Booth over a traffic stop during which Booth had to use excessive force because he believed Revely was a threat.

Chambers, in his opinion, granted summary judgment to the defendants.

Revely, in addition to being a part-time preacher, worked full-time for a janitorial service in Huntington. On Nov. 20, 2005 at around 10:45 p.m., Revely was heading out on a midnight shift. He pulled out of his driveway on Ninth Avenue and said he stopped short of the first stop sign to adjust his compact disc. He said he then proceeded through the stop sign without stopping again.

At that time, Booth was heading north on Second Street in his cruiser near the intersection with Ninth Avenue.

Revely said he figured the officer would follow him because he was driving his wife's car, which has Michigan plates. The city of Huntington continuously battles a drug problem that is commonly believed to have roots in Detroit. Revely added that he'd been pulled over before in his wife's car because of the plates.

Booth did pull in behind Revely, he said. To ascertain whether the officer was really following him, Revely pulled into an alley. Booth followed. Then Revely said he made a series of right-hand turns until he got back to the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Second Street with Booth following.

As they neared the intersection, Booth turned on his flashing lights. Revely said he did not stop, but turned onto Ninth Avenue and proceeded to his driveway.

Revely said when he got out of his car, he turned and saw that Booth had drawn his firearm. Revely said he had one hand in the air and the other in his pocket, where he said he was putting the car keys.

Revely claimed that Booth used harsh language with him. Revely, who is black, said he told Booth that he was racially profiling him and threatened to call his supervisor.

Booth said it was Revely who used the harsh language and kept telling him to shoot, court records say.

Revely said he moved, with his hands in the air, towards Booth, who ended up using pepper spray on Revely, kicking him in the back and handcuffing him on the ground.

Booth then took Revely to the police station. Revely said he was agitated and sat in a chair praying loudly and rocking back and forth, hitting his head against the wall.

An officer restrained Revely to stop him from hitting his head against the wall, court records say. Revely claimed he heard someone who sounded like Booth say that Revely was a "Jim Jones-type preacher." Jones was a cult leader who convinced hundreds of his followers to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid in a mass suicide.

Revely claimed that Booth used excessive force and violated his right to free speech and religion, claiming he was arrested for criticizing the officer and that he was prevented from praying at police headquarters and likened to an infamous cult leader.

Judge Chambers ruled that Revely's claims did not rise to the level of constitutional violations and that his own admitted actions seemed to justify Booth's actions.

"The significant facts in this case led Booth to reasonably believe that Revely was a threat and/or likely to flee arrest," Chambers wrote. "First, even before Booth turned on his lights, Revely's series of right-hand turns and alley-way driving was suspicious.

"After Revely saw the police lights, a clear indication he was to pull over, he proceeded through an intersection and pulled into a driveway. It is important to note that there was no ostensible connection between Revely's vehicle and the house where he pulled over. Booth had to consider the safety of the neighborhood residents. Any perceived threat to public safety, and the officer's own, was exacerbated when Revely made the ill-considered move to exit his vehicle."

Chambers added that Revely's claims that his First Amendment rights were violated don't hold water.

"The officers' shackling of Revely at the holding area and making him the butt of a joke do not support a claim under the First Amendment either. Revely has not demonstrated any substantial burden imposed upon his ability to freely exercise his beliefs," Chambers wrote. "To violate constitutional protections, a burden on the exercise of religion must put substantial pressure on the adherent, forcing him to 'modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs.'"

U.S. District Court case number: 3:07-0648

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