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Music church to appeal verdict on drug raid

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Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 6:15 p.m.

Attorneys for a former music church that lost a federal civil rights lawsuit have given notice they will appeal the jury's verdict.

Attorneys with Reed Smith LLP of Pittsburgh on Aug. 23 filed the notice of appeal in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh on behalf of the former Church of Universal Love and Music; its founder, William Pritts; and eight church members.

Pritts and the others claim Fayette County violated their civil rights when police executed a search warrant to look for drugs at a church function at its Bullskin property.

Church member and Pritts contended the drug raid was ordered by county officials in retaliation for an earlier out-of-court settlement in a years-long zoning dispute that resulted in the county paying the church $75,000 to drop a discrimination lawsuit.

The settlement permitted the church to hold concerts on the 149-acre rural property, but prohibited drugs and alcohol there.

A jury in July found that the Aug. 1, 2009 raid by the county drug task force at the church's outdoor “Funk Fest” did not violate members' constitutional rights to freedom of religion, right of assembly and against illegal search and seizures.

The attorneys indicated they will file the appeal with the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, but nothing had been filed as of Wednesday.

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