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Man Wins Partial Victory In Circuit City Arrest 788

JeremyDuffy writes "Michael Righi, the man who was arrested at Circuit City for failing to show his reciept/driver's license, has fought a moral battle against the city for almost a month now. The case has already been settled and he emerged victorious... sort of. It turns out that he's already spent almost $7500 and would have kept fighting them too, but because his family would have been dragged into it, he was forced to take a deal. They've expunged his record and dropped all charges, but he had to give up his right to sue the city to do it."
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Man Wins Partial Victory In Circuit City Arrest

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  • wrong? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nishal ( 636649 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:31AM (#20696913)
    Guess it is cheaper this way, than for the city to actually admit it screwed up..
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by djasbestos ( 1035410 )
      Well, if a city can get away with not admitting it screwed up with colorful Mooninites giving obscene gestures NOT being bombs (who'da thunk?), then another city can certainly get away with I-pulled-this-charge-out-of-my-ass-so-I-don't-look-incompetent with one cop and one "offender".
    • Re:wrong? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pilgrim23 ( 716938 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:02PM (#20697503)
      Why provide a money pit for Lawyers to wallow in? The true victory is this: the name of the store is "Circuit City" make a note of that "Circuit City". Got that? Now you out there, oh slash dot geek buing public: know the name of this -soon-to-hurt-badly retailer and...... DO NOT BUY THEIR PRODUCTS! go to PC Club or Best Buy or whatever but shop ELSEWHERE. -THAT is the true way to get back at this sort of situation.
  • by FlyByPC ( 841016 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:33AM (#20696969) Homepage
    ...can you imagine fifty people a day,I said fifty people a day walking in to Circuit City, buying something, and refusing to show ID? My friends, they may think it's a movement [].
    • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:38AM (#20697065)
      Fifty people a day walking into Circuit City and buying something and the shareholders would wet their pants with glee.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      nice Alice ref ;)

      I never - never ever - show my receipt to the door nazis (they really are called that!) at frys, CC, BB, etc. I keep on walking and never have I been stopped. I look the other way, I ignore them - they ask 'for my papers' and I keep walking. never an issue.

      you HAVE the right to just leave and ignore the pimply teenagers at the door. they're a joke and have no real authority.

      just keep walking. it works. (and its almost fun, in a way).
  • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:34AM (#20696979)
    In the days that followed a few things changed. First, I learned that the prosecutor was more interested in protecting the city against a civil law suit than she was in silencing my speech.

    And by doing so she effectively did silence you and the Brooklyn, OH police department and city will not have a blemish on their record because one of their officers acted like an uninformed dick.

    It's an unfortunate situation where you still have to pay out when you are completely in the right.
  • by gowen ( 141411 ) <> on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:38AM (#20697071) Homepage Journal
    "One more such victory and we will be undone."
    This headline needs rewriting as "Man wins Pyrrhic Victory". $7500 worse off and he didn't even get an apology. Hell, if he'd actually been shoplifting he'd have got a smaller fine than that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:41AM (#20697107)
    I think every city/county/state with a reasonable sized police force needs to have citizen review boards with the power to punish/fire officers. It's the ultimate solution.

    It will solve many problems and make cops stop and think before doing something stupid - especially with all the news lately about abuses of power and authority.

    Internal reviews are useless and don't change a thing. If some kind of "policing for police" isn't done soon, it's only going to get much worse.

  • nice (Score:2, Informative)

    by svendsen ( 1029716 )
    Don't sure us for screwing your rights over and we promise we won;t take you to court on those same made up charges. WTF?!?!?!?

    He caved and basically has done nothing to prove the system wrong. he was so gung ho about not showing his licensee because it was a law and his right YET he has no spine to follow through cause his family might suffer?

    News break: Your family is already suffering from it. Do you believe in what you did? Then sue the city. Oh it was all show, just wanted your 15 mins, and w
    • by irving47 ( 73147 )
      Are you kidding? His family probably started suffering the moment he was born.
      Rights are nice to have. It's even nicer to exercise them. When it really counts.
      Has anyone ever heard the phrase, "Cut off your nose to spite your face?"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Hatta ( 162192 )
        If you can't exercise your rights now, when it doesn't seem to count how are you do you expect to exercise them when it does?
    • Re:nice (Score:4, Informative)

      by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:10PM (#20697653)
      His family may have been 'suffering' as you put it, but they weren't directly involved. If you read the article (yea, I know where I am...) it would've involved flying in his sister from California and his father cancelling a European business trip.

      If that wasn't a factor I'm sure he'd've kept fighting.

      Personally, I don't even see why they'd need to get involved, but the prosecutor probably is hoping for a victory on delay and cash rather than just lose on merit early on.
  • by saleenS281 ( 859657 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:43AM (#20697151) Homepage
    Since he didn't actually force the city to admit any wrongdoing... all they did was drop the case. Seems to me like he wasted a lot of time and money for nothing.
  • The PhoneDot effect (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:45AM (#20697175) Homepage Journal
    Many years ago, when the web was still quiet and tiny, we had a little group of friends who promised to follow through with customer service and govenrment issues for one another. Since we all had various newsletters, writing gigs, and other media-style connections, we had the ability to contact people giving bad service via the phone and inquire to the service issues from a media perspective.

    Of course it was more a joke than a reality, but as time grew, we found that hundreds of people calling businesses and police departments inquiring about "Any new information?" was a great way to get things fixed. I can recall one incident with Circuit City (of all places!) where the managers on duty received nearly 200 phone calls a day from "media inquiries" relating to a direct lie from a sales person to one of our group. It only took 2 weeks of "Any new information" for the company to back down and repair the situation, at which point there was no more news to cover.

    Now I know harassment is a "crime," but why isn't there a site like Instead of the slashdot effect, you can have the phonedot effect. Give it digg like capabilities so bloggers and other media contributors can vote up or down various customer service issues, and then let these thousands or hundreds of thousands of bloggers make their calls to see if there is "Any new information?" until the issue is settled.

    When my previous city refused to get rid of the city sticker for vehicles, I typed up a newsletter and printed 30,000 of them to distribute. The newsletter had every phone number of every city official (home, work, cell). It only took 2 months of massive phone inquiries for the city council to end the city sticker harassment, and I think it was a net gain for those who called to inquire. Fight idiotic harassment with idiotic harassment.
    • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:50PM (#20698347)

      Now I know harassment is a "crime," but why isn't there a site like Instead of the slashdot effect, you can have the phonedot effect. Give it digg like capabilities so bloggers and other media contributors can vote up or down various customer service issues, and then let these thousands or hundreds of thousands of bloggers make their calls to see if there is "Any new information?" until the issue is settled.
      I really like your idea. But since a site like that does not yet exist, a good second option is to obtain the manager's name, reverse lookup his phone number, and post both to Craigslist under the kinky sexual perversion of your choice.

      A highly illegal variation of that is to note the license plate number of a personal enemy and then place "concerned citizen" calls from phone booths near public schools. Give a different name each time and say that you see a suspicious person (give description of enemy's appearance) loitering around an elementary school. Provide license plate number. Of course, if you get caught you'll go to jail but it's such a funny prank that the other inmates might be willing to skip the forcible sodomy in light of the chuckle you gave them.
  • by Exp315 ( 851386 )
    Thank you Michael Righi for attempting to stick up for everyone's rights. But unfortunately the real lesson that everyone who reads this story will learn is that you don't really have any rights, you should just shut up and comply with authority if you don't want to be punished. Be honest now, if you find yourself in a similar situation and you think back on this story, what will you really do?
  • by rob1980 ( 941751 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:47AM (#20697229)
    The guy spent $7500 on the case and forfeited the right to pursue further legal action against the city for being wrongfully arrested, but hey at least his criminal record is clean now? His record should have been clean the whole time, so there's no victory there either...
  • It sounds like the city pressured his family members to get him to sign. Where were they in this story before they called him to sign? Why didn't he hold out for not sueing but having the city pay for his legal fees? Paying the small legal fees now, would have been much cheaper for the city vs. going to trial.
  • Victory? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pcgamez ( 40751 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:50AM (#20697271)
    I fail to see where the victory is in this. The only thing he gained was that the charges were dropped. Considering that the charges were baseless to begin with, that is not much. On the other hand, the city won by making him pay $10k to fight a baseless charge and by getting away with no punishment for the city or the officer involved. Seems to be a weak victory to me...
  • I haven't fully thought this out but I wonder how different these things would go if it were illegal to ever give up your rights.
  • He probably could still sue Circuit City. They detained him with no reason to believe that he was shoplifting.

    It would depend on the shoplifting laws in Ohio, of course, but he should at least ask his attorney about it.
  • First, his family is more important to him than his principles. No problem with that. It's even admirable, in a way.

    Second, his family's convenience is more important to them than he is. That's not admirable at all.
  • Of course he can still sue Circuit City.

    He should also sue the city under 42 USC 1983 for violating his civil rights. The agreement he was forced to sign, putporting to waive his right to sue the city in exchange for not being criminally prosecuted, is unconscionable and is tantamount to extortion.
  • I Salute Him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd,bandrowsky&gmail,com> on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:01PM (#20697477) Homepage Journal
    Ya know, I had in my head that this guy was some sort of a punk just looking for attention or money. Having read his blog about the case, I must admit that I am thoroughly impressed with this man and his principaled stand. I was blown away by the calm but strong tone of his wrap up, and his desire to put his family first, in the end. For this right winger, this man is everything that there is to be admired about the left wing, and the United States is better off for his citizen ship.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:03PM (#20697519) Homepage Journal
    It's great to yell and scream about your rights.

    It's great to be able to have the ready cash to spend to help defend your rights when they're infringed upon.

    Unfortunately, there are other pain-points that can be hit by authorities to make you comply with their wishes.

    Lengthy court battles are the root of it. Sure, YOU may not mind taking all that time off work, and spending all that money.

    But what about the people you have to drag into it (witnesses, family, etc)?

    Moreover, they rely on apathy.

    At the time, the anger and outrage are hot enough to barbecue whole cattle.

    But, as time goes on, that anger cools. And it becomes harder and harder to keep oneself motivated.

    The authorities know this. And time is on their side, ESPECIALLY since they've got the deep pockets to back it up.
  • by Maximum Prophet ( 716608 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:17PM (#20697767)
    Cops are not lawyers, not even close. There's no reason to expect them to know all the laws, or all of your rights. Do you even know all your rights? Many cases before the SCOTUS have ended in split decisions, so that means that there exist some very smart legal minds that would have done the wrong thing. (If they had been the cop or the arrestee)

    A real police state would bring everyone in for questioning at least once a year and random times in between just for questioning, just in case they had done something wrong. Yeah, that's the ticket.*

    * Note for the humor impaired, yes, this is satire.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anon-Admin ( 443764 )
      Ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking the law. If the cop was ignorant of the law and where the law stood, he could have radioed in and asked.

      I would add that it is his job to know the law and to be able to notify you of laws you have broken before/while detaining you. As such, if he is unable to notify you of the laws you have violated then he is negligent in his duties and has insufficient training to hold such a position of authority.
  • Ethical? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spiritraveller ( 641174 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:21PM (#20697863)
    So the city lawyer used a criminal case to gain an advantage in a civil case.

    That's on shaky ground ethically speaking


    (A) A lawyer shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present criminal charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.
    Whether he threatened to present the charges *solely* to gain an advantage in the civil case would be the point of argument. The prosecutor would say that it wasn't solely to gain an advantage, because it was the police officer who made the arrest, and the prosecutor just prosecutes whatever cases come to him. However, if the case is not supported by probable cause, he's not allowed to go forward.


    (A) A public prosecutor or other government lawyer shall not institute or cause to be instituted criminal charges when he knows or it is obvious that the charges are not supported by probable cause.
    I would argue that the only reason the prosecutor threatened to go forward was to get the waiver of liability in the civil case. There was no merit to this case. An officer needs some level of suspicion to search a person or to require a showing of ID. There was no level of suspicion whatsoever here. There was no merit to this criminal case... at least according to what this fellow is telling us. One thing I've learned in my practice is that sometimes people charged with crimes lie... yeah, I know, hard to imagine.
  • by MooseTick ( 895855 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:39PM (#20698165) Homepage
    If asking for reciepts make you mad also, here is something you can do.

    The next time you are in a checkout where they check for reciepts at the door, wad it up and stick it down your pants when they give it to you. When you get to the door and they ask for it, be obvious about the fact that it is down there and retrieve it but don't unwad it. I think it is unlikely that they will take it from you and unwad it. At that point you can ask if they have any more requests and be on your merry way!
  • by rantingkitten ( 938138 ) <kitten&mirrorshades,org> on Friday September 21, 2007 @06:35PM (#20705043) Homepage
    And sadly, it's extremely typical of how minor criminal charges are handled. The first line is usually the cop, whose job amounts to little more than hired muscle for the state; entrance requirements in terms of education are pretty low in most areas, and cops barely understand the law themselves, instead adopting an attitude of "arrest first and let the courts sort it out later".

    Combine this with absolutely zero options or oversight from the citizenry and you already have a recipe for disaster.

    A cop will therefore hassle a citizen based on a combination of hazy understanding of the law, bad mood, and whether or not he approves of the citizen's attitude. The charge is usually, in the grand scheme of things, fairly minor, but enough to cause a serious headache for the victim. For many things, an arrest will be involved, along with jailtime, bond money, and the embarassment of having to call friends and family to get you out, not to mention the retrieval of whatever confiscated or impounded property -- and the money involved in getting that back.

    This is justice in America.

    Your court date will roll around and you'll plead not guilty. A trial date will be set, meaning you'll have to schedule your life around that, and try to get a lawyer to help. The average person isn't expected to fully understand the law, because it's so nuanced and convoluted, which is why defense attorneys with years of specialized training exist. The average person is expected to fully abide by the law he doesn't understand, though, which may suggest a problem with the system, but nobody will question it during this process.

    On your trial date you'll speak to some self-important prosecutor or solicitor who acts on behalf of the government. He'll treat your minor case like it's the crime of the century. Depending on your demeanor he may offer a deal of some sort, which usually entails you pleading guilty to a somewhat lessor offense. What he probably won't tell you is that if you reject this offer, and make him go through the hassle of an actual trial, he'll push for the maximum possible punishment the law allows, regardless of any circumstances up to that point.

    This is justice in America.

    If you take his deal, you've just pleaded guilty to an offense you may not have even committed, and is probably something so stupid no one should care even if you did do it, but you're intimidated into the plea by his legal jargon and the fact that, as an average Joe, you don't have the time, money, or resources devoted to fighting it. You'll pay a few hundred dollars in fines and be on your way, with an arrest record, a criminal history, and completely out the hundreds you spent for the bond, the fine, the impound, the attorney, and anything else. The state will pat itself on the back for a job well done for cleaning up the mean streets of dangerous scum like you.

    If you don't take his deal you'll be put on trial. For minor offenses you may not even get a jury of twelve average Joes who will sympathize with you; the state has found a loophole and called this an "administrative matter", meaning you'll get tried by a judge, who will claim to be impartial but is on the state's payroll and has a vested interest in making sure things turn out in the state's favor, not to mention his clouded view of every person who appears before him as a criminal.

    The judge will ignore everything you say, and your attorney will be mostly powerless since the time for deal-making is over and all he can do is try to object to the prosection's evidence. There will be little evidence to which he can object, though, since for most minor offenses there aren't any significant witnesses or material bits of evidence. Nothing but the policeman's word and charge on the books, often, and this will be taken as wholly sufficient to pronounce you guilty, whereupon you'll pay a huge fine, face possible jail time, and be in worse shape than you had you just meekly submitted instead of trying to assert your rig

The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford