Man Sues City After Arrest For Dropping F-Bombs In A Local Restaurant

from the an-expensive-show-of-force dept

Just because something offends a person (or someone is offended on behalf of someone else -- more on that in a moment) doesn't mean it's illegal. And just because you're eating a meal in full uniform doesn't mean you can use your law enforcement powers to magically turn non-criminal acts into criminal ones. (via Legal Juice)

Tye Trujillo was arrested at IHOP, 3546 E. Main St. in Farmington [New Mexico], by three Farmington police officers after allegedly saying the word "F---" several times shortly before midnight on June 11, 2013, according to an arrest report.

The officers — Dennis Ronk, Albert Boognl and Tamara Smith — were eating dinner at the restaurant in full uniform when the offensive language was used, the report states.

Trujillo, 32, was at the restaurant with several friends. A family with three small children were seated near them, the report states.

According to the report, Ronk approached the men and told them that if they said the word one more time, he would arrest them.

Trujillo allegedly used the word again and Ronk followed through on his threat, the report states.

Trujillo was cited for disorderly conduct and was found guilty of violating city code in Farmington Municipal Court on April 10.
Not noted in the coverage of the story, but included in the complaint [pdf link] is this bit of information that indicates the officer wasn't personally offended, but was acting on behalf of someone he assumed to be offended. From the arrest report:
I noticed a young couple sitting at a table directly behind the male subject's and there was a family of three small children (approximately 3 to 8 years of age) and two adults sitting near my location.
Officer Ronk tried to gather more damning darning incriminating evidence to back up his "you must be offended" arrest, but the person he took offense on behalf of provided no help.
After placing Plaintiff into cuffs, Officer Ronk contacted a family, which included young children, who was also patronizing the restaurant at this time and sitting near Plaintiff's table. One of the female adults at the table told Officer Ronk that she could hear the males using the "f word" but she kept the children busy and did not wish to provide information or get involved in the matter.
And why would she? Presumably she knew that loud swearing in public is something that happens from time to time and, at worst, reflects negatively on the person doing it, but is not actually a criminal act. Officer Ronk painted himself into a corner by issuing a "direct order" (no, really -- that's what it says in the arrest report) to Trujillo to stop saying "Fuck" and backing it up with the threat of an arrest. Trujillo called his bluff, leaving him no choice but to follow through.

Of course, the charges didn't stick. The judge acquitted the plaintiff of the charges because saying the word "fuck" in a public space -- even a public space containing children "approximately 3 to 8 years of age" -- does not rise to the level of "disorderly conduct." The Farmington city code states that disorderly conduct (in terms of speech) must be:
"...obscene, indecent, profane challenging or other words which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction in an average person."
Seeing as the mother's immediate reaction was to distract her children rather than punch Trujillo in his foul mouth, it stands to reason that the "average person" would not be "provoked into an immediate violent reaction" by the indiscriminate use of profanity. (On the other hand, directed profanities can provoke "immediate violent reactions" in some police officers, so be aware of that when combining the two.)

Because Officer Ronk couldn't resist the urge to make a public space "safe" for someone else's kids, the City of Farmington will likely be handing over a settlement to Trujillo in the near future. And once it does, constituents will be left holding the tab for a very expensive "fuck" they neither asked for nor enjoyed.

Filed Under: arrests, curses, farmington, free speech, fuck, new mexico, offense


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  • icon
    Mark Harrill (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 6:42am

    The Bigger Crime Here

    Isn't the bigger crime here the fact that the mother had her children out at IHOP near midnight? Feeding them unhealthy food late at night when the children should be safely tucked in bed is the criminal act here. Won't someone think of the children?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      RadioactiveSmurf (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 7:57am

      Re: The Bigger Crime Here

      That was my immediate thought too. What are young children doing up and eating at IHOP that late at night?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Adam (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 10:25am

      Re: The Bigger Crime Here

      Once again, this proves that the opinion of the observer doesn't dictate law.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 2:32pm

      Re: The Bigger Crime Here

      Could she have possibly been on a trip somewhere and stopped for a late dinner with her family? Or maybe she works nightshift like many do and wanted to spend some time with her children?

      Think it thru.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Javarod (profile), 17 Jan 2015 @ 7:01pm

      Re: The Bigger Crime Here

      These days it seems to be rather common. I worked overnights at a Wal*Mart, and it isn't all that uncommon to see parents bringing their kids with them at 2 and 3 in the morning.

      As to the main story, kinda misleading, what we have here is a cop charging someone with a crime that doesn't fit. I wouldn't be surprised that if one took the time to look that there's a law against swearing in public, albeit prolly a very old law that everyone's forgotten about.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 26 Jan 2015 @ 11:31am

        Re: Re: The Bigger Crime Here

        Even if there is such a law there's no way it's constitutional, especially on private property such as an IHOP.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:25am

    I'm surprised the cop didn't arrest the mother and children while he was at it for 'interfering with police business' by refusing to be properly offended.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    beech, 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:30am

    Lesson Learned

    Well, I think it's safe to assume Officer Ronk has learned his lesson. Next time he'll just shoot the guy to death in "self - defence" so the guy won't be able to sue over it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 2:15pm

      Re: Lesson Learned

      No he won't because the guy that was swearing wasn't dark-skinned enough to be openly murdered by a police officer.

      They only go after what they consider the 'below humans' these days after all.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      res (profile), 17 Jan 2015 @ 10:01am

      Re: Lesson Learned

      or severely beaten for resisting arrest.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:34am

    more disturbing than swearing

    I'm guessing the scene of a man getting arrested at the next table was a lot more shocking to the children than the swearing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SkullCowboy (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:35am

    Officer Ronk should have called in SWAT to shoot the place up and close it down. That IHOP is obviously a wretched hive of scum and villainy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rich Fiscus (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:35am

    "...obscene, indecent, profane challenging or other words which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction in an average person."

    I guess this just shows Officer Ronk is a below average person.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I'd hop right out of there, 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:40am

    Promote him

    Kudos to the cop. Nixes to the wait staff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:44am

      Re: Promote him

      Kudos to a cop who doesn't know the very law he arrested someone over? Yeah, just because you're apparently easy to offend, doesn't magically make doing so a criminal offense, and while the staff might have been justified in asking him to leave, the cop wasn't justified in mis-using a law to arrest someone who wasn't breaking the law in question.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:47am

      Re: Promote him

      Yes, once he finds himself on the working end of a civil lawsuit, I'm sure he'll be receiving all sorts of kudos from the taxpayers who get to foot the bill.

      Kudos to incompetence, indeed.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        bob, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:22am

        Re: Re: Promote him

        Tax payers won't even know that they are footing the bill unless they are at the budget meetings and involved with local government. Most people don't know or care as long as they can go about their own life without feeling molested by outside influences.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 12:45pm

      Disorderly Conduct

      This is clearly Disorderly Conduct

      "Police may use a disorderly conduct charge to keep the peace when people are behaving in a disruptive manner to themselves or others, but otherwise present no serious public danger."

      A typical definition of disorderly conduct defines the offense in these ways -
      A person who recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally:
      (1) engages in fighting or in tumultuous conduct;
      (2) makes unreasonable noise and continues to do so after being asked to stop; or
      (3) disrupts a lawful assembly of persons;
      commits disorderly conduct.

      "shortly before midnight" -ie (Drunk Ahole at IHOP)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 1:25pm

        Re: Disorderly Conduct

        The Farmington city code referenced in the article states:

        "...obscene, indecent, profane challenging or other words which are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction in an average person."

        Given the officer didn't feel offended (otherwise, he surely would've put that in his report), and the mother was intelligent enough to ignore it, I disagree with you. There is no victim, other than the guy who got arrested by the misguided cop.

        The only disorderly conduct here was by the "officer," who disrupted a lawful assembly, and probably upset more patrons than the guy at the table did.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 7:29pm

        Re: Disorderly Conduct

        "shortly before midnight" -ie (Drunk Ahole at IHOP)

        Hell, Trujillo might've been drunk too.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:04pm

      Mandatory skewed Pulp Fiction reference

      Jules: Say 'fuck' again. Say 'fuck' again, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker, say 'fuck' one more Goddamn time!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 8:53am

    The real "crime"

    Officer Ronk painted himself into a corner by issuing a "direct order" (no, really -- that's what it says in the arrest report) to Trujillo to stop saying "Fuck" and backing it up with the threat of an arrest.


    And here we see the real crime in the officer's eyes: the failure of the guy to follow a direct order. This is an unfortunately common attitude with police officers. They tend to think that everyone must obey their orders no matter what. That simply isn't true, no matter how hard the cops wish it were.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Gwiz (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 9:54am

      Re: The real "crime"

      This is an unfortunately common attitude with police officers. They tend to think that everyone must obey their orders no matter what. That simply isn't true, no matter how hard the cops wish it were.


      Unfortunately, it is true in my state:
      (7) As used in this section:

      (a) "Obstruct" includes the use or threatened use of physical interference or force or a knowing failure to comply with a lawful command.


      MCL Section 750.81d

      Although it may not be applicable to a case like the one we are discussing - it would depend upon whether the command was "lawful" or not and in Michigan our "swearing law" was overturned by our Appeals Court in 2002.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 16 Jan 2015 @ 10:28am

        Re: Re: The real "crime"

        Keyword is "lawful" command. Just because an officer gives you a command, does not mean it's a lawful command.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Gwiz (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:30am

          Re: Re: Re: The real "crime"

          Keyword is "lawful" command. Just because an officer gives you a command, does not mean it's a lawful command.

          Yes, that is true.

          But it hasn't always been that way. In 2004 the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on People v. Ventura and stated that the officer's actions need not be lawful. This was overturned in 2012 with People v. Moreno and the lawful requirement was reinstated (it was common law prior to a statute change in 2002 combined with the 2004 ruling)

          But in reality, all of that is really moot anyways. It's only a defense against the charges. You still can be arrested, booked, charged, have to pay a lawyer and go to court before you can actually assert that the command was unlawful.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:45am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The real "crime"

            Not to mention that you might suffer some unfortunate beatings in your struggle to avoid their execution of their version of the law. Add in a citizen who actually knows the law and a cop who knows only violence and breaking the faces of those who think they are smarter.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              sigalrm (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 3:01pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The real "crime"

              If you're lucky, it's a beating/tazing.

              Unfortunately, the odds of contracting acute, sudden onset lead poisoning increase dramatically when you question the lawfulness of an officer's directive while his friends look on.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 16 Jan 2015 @ 10:04am

      Re: The real "crime"

      Felony "f***-off" to a police officer.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 4:01pm

      Re: The real "crime"

      we should be thankful he wasn't in fear of his life over someone not respecting him, and responding by shooting the man in the face.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mattshow (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 9:06am

    When I lived in Halifax there was a case of a guy getting arrested in a donair shop late at night. I don't remember exactly what the charge was but there it was something similar: he was drunk and disorderly.

    Sadly, I can't find a copy online, but the judge dismissed the case and talked about the need for context for these kind of charges, stating "Tony's Donair Shop at 2am is not the Vatican Library". (As anyone who has ever been to Tony's at 2am can attest to).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    avideogameplayer, 16 Jan 2015 @ 9:31am

    Fuck that fucking cop for trying to fucking be a big shot...

    I hope he gets fucking fired and fucking has to work in a fucking IHOP to support his fucking family...

    Fuck him...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 9:32am

    If this guy set off multiple F-Bombs, why isn't the FBICIANSADHSNYPD all over this guy for terrorism?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:02am

    The officers — Dennis Ronk, Albert Boognl and Tamara Smith — were eating dinner at the restaurant in full uniform when the offensive language was use

    Were these officers working at the time? If so, why were they sitting in an IHOP rather than out doing their jobs?

    Why did only one of the officers get involved in the arrest?

    Finally, when did IHOP start serving donuts?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      bob, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:18am

      Re:

      Were these officers working at the time? If so, why were they sitting in an IHOP rather than out doing their jobs?
      Even cops get breaks.

      Why did only one of the officers get involved in the arrest?
      Cause he didn't actually know the law he was trying to enforce.

      Finally, when did IHOP start serving donuts?
      Good question.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:02am

    "... they neither asked for nor enjoyed"

    read that and just laughed for a long time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Howard, Cowering, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:06am

    The bright side

    Good thing it was an IHOP in New Mexico and not public space in Albuquerque.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:13am

    Well that escalated quickly

    The woman was not happy with the swearing but decided instead of being confrontational she would distract her kids and obviously didn't want to be involved when the cop arrested the guy.

    The cop was trying to be of service to the lady by stopping the swearing. However the cop obviously let his speech and actions get out of control and just moved to physical threats instead of just asking if the guy would stop because there were small kids in the vicinity.

    While the guy does have free speech he should still be considerate of others around him. If he doesn't then yeah just like Tim said it "reflects negatively on the person doing it".

    Still he shouldn't have been arrested for the swearing or disobeying an illegal order.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:37am

      Re: Well that escalated quickly

      The cop might have been trying to be of service, however, it doesn't excuse threatening arrest for a non-existent crime. Had he simply said, "excuse me, but there are children at the next table - would you mind being more considerate with your language?" ---and left it at that, regardless of the man's response, I would agree with you.

      However, once he decided to let his ego get out of control and threatened arrest, he's no longer of any useful service to the lady, the community, his department, or his reputation.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Zonker, 16 Jan 2015 @ 12:30pm

        Re: Re: Well that escalated quickly

        Exactly. And if the man had continued to swear anyway, the officer could go to the IHOP manager and complain. If the IHOP manager agrees, he could ask the man to leave. If the man doesn't leave when asked, then the officer can arrest him for trespass.

        It takes a little more effort to do things lawfully, but I guess that officers are too accustomed to taking short cuts or just ignoring the law altogether these days.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Zonker, 16 Jan 2015 @ 12:43pm

          Re: Re: Re: Well that escalated quickly

          And when I say "he could ask the man to leave", I of course mean the manager asking the fucker to leave. Damn ambiguous English pronouns.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 1:57pm

          Re: Re: Re: Well that escalated quickly

          100% this. That is called the correct, reasonable, and obvious way to handle the situation. I'll bet you that the potty-mouthed guy looked and acted suspicious or sketchy in some way, which caused the cop to simply want to harass him enough that he jumped at the slightest excuse to escalate the whole thing.

          Regardless, the cop did a terrible job.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 7:25pm

          Re: Re: Re: Well that escalated quickly

          ...the officer could go to the IHOP manager and complain.
          And there's the problem. The LEO, by going to the manager, would be admitting to himself that outside of actual law enforcement duties he has no more (or less) value to or authority over society than does any other citizen.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Just Me, 16 Jan 2015 @ 11:42am

    Confused

    So he was acquitted, or convicted? The article said he was convicted in municipal court, but the later says he was acquitted by the judge. I assume the first bit is a mistake...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    KRA, 16 Jan 2015 @ 12:23pm

    At some point during his meal this foul-mouthed diner must have reached for a fork or a knife, which would certainly have made the average police officer fear for his safety and justifiably open fire.

    I applaud Officer Rank for the restraint he demonstrated in that split second he had to react.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 1:40pm

    Average person

    But what's if the prosecution could show that the mother was not an average person. She had an IQ of 150. Maybe the charges would stick then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 16 Jan 2015 @ 3:58pm

    If you have your three-year-old at an IHOP at midnight, I'll wager it wouldn't be the first time the child has heard someone drop a few f-bombs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 16 Jan 2015 @ 3:59pm

    If enough get offended at his outrageous behavior maybe we can get officer ronk fired for disorderly conduct

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    AnonCow, 16 Jan 2015 @ 4:01pm

    After I read just the headline, my first response was, "Why were those cops hassling Kid Rock?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jan 2015 @ 4:19pm

    Definition Of FUCK

    "Perhaps one of the most interesting words in the
    English language today is the word fuck.
    Out of all of the English words that begin with the letter "F",
    fuck is the only word that is referred to as the "F" word.
    Its the one magical word, just by its sound can describe
    pain, pleasure, hate and love..."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW9bcaEOJvg

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 17 Jan 2015 @ 5:22am

    Re: [two different comments]

    So he was acquitted, or convicted? The article said he was convicted in municipal court, but the later says he was acquitted by the judge


    The article suggests that it was a trial de novo in ``real'' court following a conviction in municipal court. Some places still have municipal courts and it is not uncommon for the defendant to be able to demand a new trial in real court as a matter of right.


    Given the officer didn't feel offended (otherwise, he surely would've put that in his report)


    The general rule of thumb is that you cannot disturb the king's peace. In other words, someone who is not a cop has to complain or there is no disturbing of the peace.

    This still leaves the police with a fair amount of discretion. We have, here in the City, a fair number of street screechers who come out on Friday afternoons to yell at people about the need to adopt their religion. It disturbs downtown businesses, downtown pedestrians, even people inside offices with windows closed can hear these guys.

    A church north of town trains them in how to be loud. The training does not appear to include any reference to making salvation appealing. Indeed, if one were to judge by the street screechers, hell might be a more attractive option. However, the complaints to the police are not about the message, just the volume at which it is delivered.

    Complaints are frequent, but the police have declined to act. This is probably reprehensible on their part. I suspect that if someone were to go out there and yell rude words, it would get some attention.

    The cops are correctly fearful that the street screechers will at least have representation at all stages of any legal proceedings. The problem is that an arrest for the rude words would then be content-based.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sneaking.ninja, 19 Jan 2015 @ 6:13am

    meanwhile in norway

    officer ronk would be instantly arrested in norway if the said his lastname :P

    its so close to runke its amazing

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Runke

    luckily we norwegians are pretty liberal :p

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2015 @ 9:38am

    There's a funny headline in here about giving fucks, but I can't seem to put it together.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bdj, 19 Jan 2015 @ 11:56am

    America needs to drop all this emphasis on political correctness and grow some thicker skin because it's breeding a nation of total pussies. What if the guy had been discussing vaginas or penises? Still disorderly? I suspect not, and there is a 100% chance those kids have heard it before right at home (TV, parents, Internet, etc). Cops are prudish bullies...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Big Boy, 20 Jan 2015 @ 12:01pm

    Farmington FU's again

    If he had said "I'm gonna LOVE the Hell outa that bitch when I get home." Would he still have been arrested?

    I suspect the officers had a long and boring night shift coming up and wanted an excuse to get out of a couple of hours alone, in a squad car, driving along empty streets. There is coffee at the jail and a chance to show domination over a "Spic". The most exciting thing to do in Farmington at midnight.

    Thugs in Blue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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