Sewickley man sues police, alleges use of excessive force
A Sewickley man who works for the FBI as a subcontractor claims police officers from three municipalities retaliated against him when he used his cellphone to take pictures of them after he was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.
Sean McLinden, 58, has a degree in neurology but does computer work for the FBI, said his lawyer, Tim O'Brien.
“This is one of those classic examples of a citizen doing something that is entirely protected under the United States Constitution and suffering retaliation on account of it,” O'Brien said.
McLinden is suing Officer D. Ryan Ging and two other officers identified only by last name, all of Ohio Township; a police sergeant from Bellevue identified only by his last name; and Officer Robert Pies of Robinson.
Solicitors for Robinson and Ohio Township declined comment. The Bellevue solicitor couldn't be reached.
McLinden was returning home after dinner with his wife when he was stopped at a DUI checkpoint, O'Brien said.
A related Commonwealth Court case says he showed signs of intoxication during field sobriety and Breathalyzer tests and refused to take a blood test. O'Brien said he can't find the results of the first two tests and that McLinden was willing to take a blood test at a hospital but not in the on-site trailer.
“He didn't think the conditions were sanitary where they wanted to do it,” he said.
Officers arrested but didn't handcuff McLinden as they placed him in the back of a police SUV, the lawsuit says. When they saw him taking photos of them with his cellphone, they allegedly pulled him out of the vehicle, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him. They then put him back into the SUV, O'Brien said.
Sara Rose, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, said her organization has represented people who recorded police while they were being detained, but can't recall a case where the person was already under arrest.
“I don't think that changes anything,” she said. “I think that what matters is if the person recording is interfering with the police in any way.”
If he was sitting in the SUV and not interfering with the officers, then he had a First Amendment right to record them, she said.
Bruce Ledewitz, a Duquesne University law professor, said there could be a difference because once police arrest someone they have Fourth Amendment control over that person.
“If they said, ‘stop,' and he said, ‘no,' that is resisting arrest,” he said.
On the other hand, “if the reason they're handcuffing him is because he's taking pictures, that's good grounds (for a lawsuit),” he said.
The officers charged McLinden with DUI, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and destruction of property. O'Brien said the property was some door molding in the police SUV that McLinden knocked off while he was struggling to get upright after the officers threw him, handcuffed, back into the vehicle.
McLinden was admitted to a pretrial diversion program, and the charges eventually were dismissed, O'Brien said.
Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Century mark beckons for Ben
- Flyers continue mastery of Penguins at Consol
- Highmark seeks double-digit increase for more benefits, heavy use
- Wanted sex offender caught hiding in homemade fort in Washington County
- Cops: Washington County surplus store sold stolen items
- Steelers’ defense on pace for fewest sacks in 16-game season
- Officials identify witness to Port Authority bus crash after releasing photo
- Corbett rips Wolf tax proposals during Hempfield campaign stop
- Canadians more fearful, aware after ‘very rare’ attack in Ottawa
- WPIAL, coaches are still looking to schedule Week 9 rivalry games
- Motorist in Downtown mishap, passenger arrested on drug charges