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Vt. traffic dispute leads to federal civil rights claims - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. traffic dispute leads to federal civil rights claims

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

"He shouldn't have stopped me. He had no reason to stop me," Rod MacIver said.

Traffic tickets frequently land motorists in court. But in July, a faulty ticket issued to Rod MacIver in December led him to sue the town of Shelburne.

"I'm sorry, I was looking forward to this," Acting Judge Samuel Hoar said in July.

The small claims court's acting judge postponed the hearing because police officers-- at their attorney's suggestion-- chose to sit down in a nearby coffee shop rather than appearing.

Now, the stakes are raised after the American Civil Liberties Union picked up the case and swapped the small claim for a pair of civil rights claims.

"In many ways what happened to Rod MacIver is everybody's worst nightmare," said Allen Gilbert, the spokesman for the Vermont ACLU.

Gilbert says the Shelburne officer violated MacIver's Fourth Amendment rights by pulling him over without reason, and his First Amendment rights when the officer told him to shut up or get ticketed. A sergeant later told MacIver dashcam video showed a violation, but the officer conceded to the traffic court judge that the violation had not occurred, despite detailing what he thought he saw earlier in the proceeding.

"A police officer's best weapon is the public's confidence in what he or she is doing and that's really damaged when we have an incident like this," Gilbert said.

"The issue of the traffic stop is minor; it's the supervision that's the issue and I think the issues it raises are major," MacIver said.

Through the suit filed Friday, MacIver seeks an admission of wrongdoing, cost reimbursement, as well as unspecified damages. MacIver says he'll give any winnings to the ACLU. All he wants is to discourage police everywhere from using similar tactics and avoiding responsibility.

Spokespeople for the town of Shelburne declined our interview request, stating that now is not the proper time to issue a public statement on the case.

Click here to see the full video of the traffic stop on MacIver's website.

Click here for court filings in the case on the ACLU-VT website.

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