He flipped off a trooper and got charged. Now Vermont is on the hook for $175,000

ST. ALBANS, Vt. (AP) — Vermont has agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a lawsuit on behalf of a man who was charged with a crime for giving a state trooper the middle finger in 2018, the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday.

The lawsuit was filed in 2021 by the ACLU of Vermont on behalf of Gregory Bombard, of St. Albans. It says Bombard’s First Amendment rights were violated after an unnecessary traffic stop and retaliatory arrest in 2018.

Trooper Jay Riggen stopped Bombard’s vehicle in St. Albans on Feb. 9, 2018, because he believed Bombard had shown him the middle finger, according to the lawsuit. Bombard denied that but says he did curse and display the middle finger once the initial stop was concluded.

Bombard was stopped again and arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct, and his car was towed. He was jailed for over an hour and cited to criminal court, according to the ACLU. The charge was eventually dismissed.

Under the settlement signed by the parties this month, the state has agreed to pay Bombard $100,000 and $75,000 to the ACLU of Vermont and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression for legal fees.

“While our client is pleased with this outcome, this incident should never have happened in the first place,” said Hillary Rich, staff attorney for the ACLU of Vermont, in a statement. “Police need to respect everyone’s First Amendment rights — even for things they consider offensive or insulting.”

The Vermont State Police did not have a comment on the settlement. Vermont did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the deal.

Bombard said in a statement provided by the ACLU that he hopes the Vermont State Police will train its troopers “to avoid silencing criticism or making baseless car stops.”


This story has been updated to correct the name of an organization to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, instead of the Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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