Beaver Creek: Lawsuit proceeds against Cheney security
The Denver Post
Beaver Creek, CO Colorado
BEAVER CREEK, Colorado “-A federal judge in Denver has declined to toss out a lawsuit against four U.S. Secret Service agents who arrested a man in Beaver Creek, Colorado in 2006 after he approached former Vice President Dick Cheney to criticize the Iraq war.
U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello issued her ruling from the bench this morning and said a jury is going to have to decide the case.
“There are too many disputed issues of material fact to grant summary judgment in this case,” Arguello said.
Steven Howards sued the four agents claiming they violated his civil rights after he was arrested for harassing Cheney in June 2006.
Howards said he simply walked up to Cheney in the Beaver Creek shopping mall, touched him and said his policy in Iraq was “disgusting.”
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The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Eagle County District Attorney declined to pursue a criminal case against Howards.
The Secret Service agents gave conflicting accounts of the incident in depositions taken by attorneys in the civil case.
But the agents said a number of factors led them to be suspicious of Howards starting with a cell phone call he made as he spotted Cheney in the Beaver Creek shopping mall.
During the call, Howards said he was going to ask Cheney “how many kids he killed today.”
Howards then walked up to Cheney, touched him and made his opposition to the war known.
But the agents say Howards raised their suspicions because he lingered in the mall, was carrying a shopping bag with unknown contents, and refused to cooperate when they tried to question him about whether he assaulted Cheney or not.
Howards said he walked away from Cheney, then came back toward the vice president because he was looking for his son who had accompanied him to the mall.
Judge Arguello said she was concerned about the possibility that Howards’ conversation on his cell phone – which is protected under the First Amendment – may have inspired the agents’ actions.
“It is very troubling to this court,” she said. “(The call) was nothing threatening to the vice president but it clearly demonstrates opposition to the war in Iraq.”
A trial is expected to begin on Sept. 28.