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New York man has First Amendment
right to curse out officer, judge says
[New York, NY]

January 04, 2001
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New York man has First Amendment
right to curse out officer, judge says
[New York, NY]

By Dave Goldiner Daily News staff writer With Michele McPhee
January 2, 2001, Tuesday Sports Final Edition
Copyright 2001 Daily News, L.P.
Daily News (New York)
January 2, 2001, Tuesday Sports Final Edition

(NEW YORK) -- A man arrested for cursing out a Manhattan cop was cleared by a judge who said he had a First Amendment right to use blue language against one of the NYPD blue. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Carol Edmead threw out all charges against Carl Washington, who was arrested after he spouted foul language at a police officer on an upper West Side street corner in October, court records show.

"The defendant was doing no more than exercising his constitutional rights to express his views regarding members of the Police Department," Edmead wrote in her decision.

The case stemmed from a confrontation between Washington and Police Officer Michelle Artis at the corner of W. 86th St. and Broadway around 10:15 a.m. Oct. 5.

"---- you. I'm not leaving. It's a free country," Washington allegedly shouted at the officer.

He also allegedly flailed his arms and raised his hands to Artis.

Washington was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. He also was initially charged with harassment and third-degree assault, but those counts were dropped.

In her Dec. 22 decision, the judge noted that under the law, a disorderly conduct charge requires that the suspect engage "in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior."

Prosecutors did not oppose Washington's motion to dismiss the charges.

A mayoral spokeswoman declined comment on the case yesterday, as did police.

But some cops slammed the decision, saying it could only serve to foster open disrespect of officers.

"Great," said one NYPD detective, who requested anonymity. "Now every perp has a license to pile more abuse on us."

"The courts should stand behind us when we are doing our duty," said one beat cop. "Personally, I never charged anyone with harassment because the charge is always thrown out."

One police sergeant shrugged off verbal abuse as part of the job.

"We can't arrest people for cursing us out," said the cop, who declined to be identified. "Cops are supposed to have thick skins."

In a First Amendment case last year, Edmead dismissed charges against the Rev. Al Sharpton and eight other activists who had been arrested for pitching tents in City Hall Park in a homeless-rights demonstration.

The judge ruled that the activists, who were charged with assembling without a permit and violating park rules, were exercising their rights to free speech.

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