A freelance reporter arrested while covering an undercover prostitution sting does not have a claim for a violation of his First Amendment rights, a federal appeals court ruled, reports the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the lawsuit by William Lund against the city of Rockford, Il., and three police officers. Two of the officers followed Lund as he left the scene of the sting and arrested him for riding his motorized bicycle the wrong way on a one-way street. Lund maintains the officers were not concerned with his traffic violation and instead arrested him in retaliation for his news gathering activities and his previous criticisms of the police force.
The appellate panel agreed that Lund’s concerns that police will use their arrest power to suppress speech “are not without basis.” Under a Supreme Court ruling last year, wrote Seventh Circuit Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner, a plaintiff pursuing a retaliatory arrest claim must prove there was no probable cause for the arrest. In this case, she said, officers had probable cause to arrest Lund for a traffic offense. Lund reports for the Rockford Scanner, a website that gets many of its news tips from listening to police scanners. In 2015, he went to the site of a prostitution sting conducted by the Rockford Police Department and began taking photographs. Officers threatened to arrest Lund if he did not move at least six blocks away. They began pursuing Lund with the intent to arrest him for obstructing the operation and arrested him after he turned the wrong way onto the one-way street.