(The Sticker Gang with their legal Dream Team. From L to R: Dan Logothetis, Attorney Gary Asteak, Trevor Gehret, Attorney Phil Lauer, Jeremy Peters and Attorney Mark Minotti)
The infamous Sticker Gang has filed its long awaited civil rights suit against Nazareth. Filed in the United States District Court, the suit was filed Thursday afternoon by Trevor Gehret, Jeremy Peters and Daniel Logothetis. They are represented by prominent civil rights Attorney Joe Welsh, along with Phil Lauer. Named as Defendants are Nazareth, Police Chief Thomas Trachta, Patrolman Dan Troxell and the entire Borough Council. The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees, for civil rights violations, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, assault, battery and the intentional infliction of emotional address.
It also seeks injunctive relief against a Borough that seems to have lost sight of the Constitution.
This lawsuit is the result of tiny "FT (Fire Trachta)" stickers, which were springing up all over Nazareth nearly two years ago, along with the dandelions.
They were small but everywhere. Mailboxes, telephone poles, benches and even crime prevention signs.
The FTs were someone's way of saying FU to Police Chief Thomas Trachta.
|Dan Troxell does his own perp walk|
Not only did Trachta arrest the trio that ultimately became known as The Sticker Gang, but he conducted a staged perp parade in front of a fawning press.
He detained these desperadoes until both papers arrived. Then he paraded them outside, up from the police station to District Judge John Capobianco's courtroom. They were shackled and handcuffed, so the dailies could snap pictures of these evil criminals doing what is called a "perp" walk. The Morning Call video shows Jeremy Peters getting at least one shove by a cop who wants him to move faster.
It was actually more of a parade, along the entire length of the bank building. It was done to publicly humiliate this trio and impress a powerful image of guilt in the mind of the public. People charged with littering were treated as though they had just attempted to assassinate the President.
It was also totally unnecessary. Trachta could have easily escorted them up the stairway from the police station into the courtroom.
Online comments in both newspapers have expressed outrage at this abuse of police power. The Chief has been called a megalomaniac, egotistical maniac, Nazi, moron, transplanted clown, Barney Fife and out-of-control.
|Legal Dream Team With Sticker Gang T-Shirt|
The FT stickers were initially spotted by meter officer Lou Skrapits as he made his rounds. That's when Chief Trachta ordered Troxell to begin his investigation.
That led him to Michele Howey, who said that Logothetis and Peters had each placed a sticker on her car late one evening, with her consent, and that she placed a third sticker herself.
"I didn't think it was that big of a deal," she repeated several times. "It was just a sticker."
|The Evil Sticker Gang|
"You brought this woman here to testify without notifying us so we could have someone here who understands American Sign Language?" she asked. Troxell, who was the investigator, had no idea that one of his witnesses is deaf.
Judge Taschner excused Logothetis' mother.
During the trial, Troxell attempted repeatedly to introduce numerous pictures of the stickers on meters, benches, trees, a car and telephone poles. But he had no training on how to lay a foundation to get them into evidence, and failed. As a result, about 20 pictures never made it into evidence. He just stopped trying. It hurt his head too much.
Troxell also called Public Works Superintended Robert Reimer, who had an invoice of $970.71 for the sticker clean up. But his invoice was prepared after charges had been filed, and with knowledge that he had to be over $500 for a misdemeanor to stick. He admitted that when the Chief first asked him about the clean up costs, he told him he really had no idea.
|Dream Team discusses strategy|
As the case developed, there was no real evidence that any of the Sticker Gang members had actually done the dirty deed. But there was evidence that, in addition to manufacturing a victim, Trachta and Troxell tried to get the feds involved. Troxell actually testified that he contacted the United States Attorney's Office for the stickers found on mailboxes, bringing some chuckles from the defense team. Postal Inspectors apparently have better things to do.
The Sticker Gang had been facing misdemeanor criminal mischief charges (eight counts each), as well as disorderly conduct, harassment and eight counts of scattering rubbish.
"Why eight?" asked Attorney Asteak at one point, especially considering the evidence was insufficient for even one count.
"There's nothing here to support the misdemeanor charge," concluded Judge Taschner. "Nothing." She indicated all the evidence from the Commonwealth showed an expression of political belief, not an intent to damage any property.
She then told Chief Trachta that he, like she, is a public figure who has to expect some criticism.
"Suck it up, cupcake!" she advised.
She also tossed the harassment and disorderly conduct charges for much the same reason. That pesky First Amendment kept getting in the way. Mark Minotti, legal scholar for the Dream Team, furnished the judge with another Superior Court decision finding that a person wearing a "Fuck You" T-shirt inside a courtroom is not disorderly, as a matter of law. He noted that disorderly conduct charges cannot be used as a dragnet for all irritations. It is a statute intended to preserve the public peace.
Troxell made a last-ditch effort to get the judge to at least buy a scattering rubbish charge. But he failed there, too. He said he found some stickers in a Valero gas station parking lot, but conceded to Attorney Lauer that he was unable to say how they got there or whether the Sticker Gang was even responsible.
Adopting a clinical approach, Attorney Asteak read the Scattering Rubbish statute, which provides that a person is guilty of an offense if he "causes any waste paper, sweepings, ashes, household waste, glass, metal, refuse or rubbish, or any dangerous or detrimental substance to be deposited into or upon any road, street, highway, alley or railroad right-of-way, or upon the land of another or into the waters of this Commonwealth."
He noted the FT stickers were not waste paper, but pure political speech. He also denied there was any evidence FT stickers were deposited on a road, street, highway, alley or railroad right-of-way, or upon the land of another or into the waters of this Commonwealth.
Quoting from a Thomas Jefferson letter to James Madison, Judge Taschner observed that "a little rebellion now and then is a good thing." Speaking for herself, the night judge added, "We don't grow as a society unless there's disagreement."
In addition to this matter, Nazareth is facing a civil rights lawsuit filed by Officer Stephen Schleig, another suit filed by Officer Adam Shimer and a wrongful death action by the Timothy Nixon estate.
When the complaint becomes available on Pacer, I will post it.