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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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  • 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 ) <adam.dada@gmail.com> 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 phonedot.org? 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.
  • Re:Being anal (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:48AM (#20697243)
    you always lose the battle you don't fight

    apathetic people are allowing these battle to occur in the first place, if everyone fought, victory would be assured
  • by hackstraw ( 262471 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:58AM (#20697421)
    It's an unfortunate situation where you still have to pay out when you are completely in the right.

    So true. I heard the other day where someone on welfare and her 6 year old kid accumilated something like $20k in lawyer costs from an RIAA suit. Some info here. http://www.afterdawn.com/news/archive/6873.cfm [afterdawn.com] here http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/archives/005294.php [eff.org]

    I think she is like computer illeterate and whatnot, and the RIAA admitted that "oops, we meant to go after this person, or bad, sorry" and she has accumilated like 10s of thousands of debt to fight this.

    Other countries have a better system where if the initiator of a lawsuit was completely wrong, then they have to pay or something like that. I think that is a better system. Because otherwise its advantagous for a lawyer just to blindly sue whenever they feel like it, and they get paid win or lose.

  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:10PM (#20697647) Homepage Journal
    I guess that's a solution, but my idea is way more like digg+slashdot:

    1. You get harassed by a company or a public official.
    2. You post your details about the harassment, as well as any contact information by the harasser, as well as any proof of the harassment (video, audio, photos, receipts, etc).
    3. People review the harassment, make initial phone calls to check on it, etc.
    4. Harassments are moderated up or down, reviews are moderated up or down. Negative poster karma is displayed (people who lie, post their ex-girlfriend's contact info, etc).
    5. Top harassments on each page get the most response from the site visitors. Maybe Michael Righi's case brings 10,000 phone calls a day to the Brookfield, OH police department, and every manager's home and cell phone per day. Issue solved.

    I recall when Ron Paul (sorry, had to bring it up) was going to be uninvited from Michigan's GOP gatherings. All it took was a few thousands phone calls a day to get that resolved in a matter of days. Sounds like an excellent way to use one official's negative service to the public's advantage.
  • by bpotato ( 1159933 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:10PM (#20697655)
    I had a similar experience with (I think) CompUSA in Knoxville, TN a few years back. Mine was even more straightforward, though, and ended up in no hardships like this gent faced. Basically, I went in and bought _one_ thing. I even said "no thanks" to a bag. I head for the door with the receipt in one hand and the item in the other. On the way out, this woman appears out of nowhere, surprises me, and says "sir, I need to see your receipt." After a shocked step back, I say, "uh, no." I walk around her and keep going for the door. I guess she was surprised that I said no, because she didn't even follow for a few seconds. I get about half way across the parking lot before she catches up, yelling she has to see my receipt. I say, "no." She says, "why not?" I say, "I have *one* item in my hand. You can see that. I have a receipt in my other hand. You can also see that. What on earth do you think the receipt is for? Why would you need to see it to verify that it is for the one item I clearly just bought at the cash register I just left inside your store?" She says, "I need to make sure the item is on the receipt. We have problems with our cashiers ringing the wrong thing sometimes." I respond, "that is between you and your cashiers. I paid for the item I am holding. Your choices at this point are to call the police, in which case I will happily wait for their arrival. OR, I am going to get in my car and drive away." She just stood there, which I took for her choosing not to call the police, so I left. So the moral of my story is that sometimes saying "no" doesn't really cost you anything, and clearly in these cases it is the right thing to do. OH! I would also note that if everyone said "no", there would be no reasonable way for them to arrest everyone.
  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:17PM (#20697777) Journal
    Many cities have gone on to hire an Ombudsman.

    My city (Omaha) hired an police auditor. Then when she released a report saying that the police were overly rude to black people at traffic stops, she got fired. It's been almost a year now and we still don't have any public review of the police. It's damn frightening.
  • Re:nice (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:20PM (#20697831) Journal
    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?
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:33PM (#20698053)

    Other countries have a better system where if the initiator of a lawsuit was completely wrong, then they have to pay or something like that. I think that is a better system. Because otherwise its advantagous for a lawyer just to blindly sue whenever they feel like it, and they get paid win or lose.
    Ever consider suing a large corporation? It's daunting. They have teams of lawyers who make more money from opening your letter than you or I make in a day's hard work, and they will grind your case into the ground.

    Now imagine if, not only do you have to pay your own lawyer for a case you'll probably lose, but you have to pay their team of $500/hour lawyers if you lose.

    Such a system can be good but it has to be set up very carefully to avoid bankrupting people who seek true justice.
  • by bckrispi ( 725257 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:32PM (#20698971)

    Not at all. He shops at a store and the expectation is he will aid that store in preventing shop lifting so as to keep his price lower. They check receipts to make sure the right thing was rung up.
    Bullshite! The only obligation a customer has to prevent shoplifting is to pay for the items that they remove from the store. Once the transaction is made, the merchandise becomes his private property. The clerk at the door has no more right to demand to see his receipt and merchandise than he has to demand a peek at her sweater puppies.
  • by lupis42 ( 1048492 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:45PM (#20699141)
    Note to self: Showing up at this guys house in a nice blue uniform with a good plastic badge == obtaining getting his social, drivers license, maybe even some cc numbers. Seriously, not that long ago, NY state had issues with carjackers dressing up as cops, putting blue flashers on their dashboards, and pulling people over on highways, then shooting them and stealing their cars. Aside from the fact that cops themselves can be crooked, there's always the danger that the nice man asking for your ID is just pretending to be a cop. Despite this, most cops get really annoyed when you ask them for ID, badge number, etc. The way I see it, they deserve a little of their own back. All of that is of course mostly irrelevant, the really important point is that we don't have to show ID because we live in a free country, if we did have to show ID, it wouldn't be a free country, and when the cops try to act otherwise, they need to be sued, as a reminder of how far their rights go.
  • by UninvitedCompany ( 709936 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:50PM (#20699253)
    The fuckup at the root of all this was that he was pushing his luck with the cop. You have to pick your fights. The fight with the store was a valid one and fundamentally winnable, and he could have made hay out of the whole situation if he had cooperated with the cop's request for ID. His principled opposition to giving ID to the cop cost him the game because the ensuing bogus arrest took center stage and didn't allow him to focus his resources, his family support, and the media attention on the behavior of the store.

  • yes sir! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cez ( 539085 ) * <info@historystar ... y.com minus dist> on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:51PM (#20699269) Homepage

    Therefore it is the police's responsibility to know what they can't fucking arrest me for, and the cop's ass should be on the line if they get it wrong. Mine certainly is if I fail in my duty, since the result is a cop arresting me, probably knocking me around a bit in the process, and backing their authority with deadly force. That's hardly trivial, so misapplication of this kind of force should be severely punished. Fine the fuckers, and fire them then throw their asses in jail if they do it repeatedly.
    Damn I wish I had mod points for the both of you. You are spot fucking on, and mistakes such as these should be dealt with not by a slap on the wrist, but something they will feel. Not something that they will forget as soon as the media goes away. Or a paid leave while the community expresses it's outrage.

    ignorance might be bliss...but it sure as hell is not an excuse, nor should it be a reason to let the officer escape unscathed. By doing so, its ...we'll try not to let it happen again...wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

    Anyone know what happened to the charges he filed against the CC guy? Thought he mentioned something about them being dropped in his blog but didn't go into much details...

  • by hackiavelli ( 672464 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @03:19PM (#20700801)
    I'm sorry, but this whole thing is a farce. Circuit City didn't search his person or riffle through his vehicle. They asked to see a receipt. It's not uncommon and it certainly isn't unreasonable. The entire case escalated out of control from there.

    That a police officer would look for state issued identification doesn't strike me as outrageous either. Are police supposed to start taking people's word for who they are during an investigation? They'd never be able to nab those with a warrant out against them.

    It's not bad enough that Righi wasted the time of the justice system and put his family through hell, but he's damaging the real fight for our rights. We're fighting to keep the government from checking what books we read and listening to our phone calls without a warrant, to restore habeas corpus itself, and this guy makes a federal case out of a receipt. It makes the whole movement look petty.

  • by Sylver Dragon ( 445237 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @04:10PM (#20701751) Journal
    If it's a hard and thankless job and it doesn't pay well, Who the hell is going to take jobs like these? It would only be people who couldn't work any where else. Do we want to give these people power and authority? You can't just underpay cops, punish them at any hint of wrong doing, and expect to have qualified individuals protecting and serving. Why don't you just admit that you don't like and don't want cops. That's all fine and dandy, you just better be ready for a society without police officers (make sure you buy a nice gun, and know how to use it).

    I would not ever advocate a society without a police force, but thank you for putting words in my mouth. I was merely pointing out the current condition of being an officer. Actually, what I would like to see is better pay for the police, better training and good oversight. Part of the problem with the police we do have is that it is underpaid and very non-glamorous. While the latter is probably a lost cause, the former could be fixed quite easily. The end result of the current state of affairs is that we get what was seen, police officers acting irresponsibly with the powers they are given.
    As for punishing them, this is a must. Certainly, there is going to need to be a review of each case and an appropriate punishment to any infraction. I wouldn't want to see the officer, in this case, thrown off the force for doing what he did. He should not, however, be let go with no repercussions. At the very least, he should spend some time in training on what the rights of a person are, and where his powers end.

    Do I have to remind people we are talking about a guy who refused to show his receipt and identification? This isn't the American Revolutionary War. Nor is this part of some civil right movement. Give me a fucking break.

    The point wasn't about fighting and dieing over showing ID or not. If your read the previous paragraph, you will notice that I was talking about dealing with criminals and taking responsibility for your own protection against them, rather than ceding your liberty to a government. It is quite possible that, in the US, some criminal will abuse their rights and kill you. Rather than running in fear to the waiting arms of a police state, we must each be willing to stand and fight, and possibly die, to protect ourselves and preserve our liberty. We must each be willing to accept that its a dangerous world out there, and that the safety offered by giving up our liberty to a government, is a dangerous illusion.
  • Re:wrong? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by teasea ( 11940 ) <t_stool&hotmail,com> on Friday September 21, 2007 @05:05PM (#20703181)
    you shouldn't have to show your receipt

    Exactly. If they see a person stealing, stuffing something into their bag, pants, socks etc... they have a reason to search you and follow up with a citizens arrest. The reason stores have begun searching the bags on the way out is to be sure their employee (the cashier) is not a friend (or taking a kickback) to help you steal the item. This is the stores problem and the solution is not to pretend they have the right to search and detain you. They have the onus of proving you have stolen something. You are not required to prove that you did not. By that logic, they could ask for proof of purchase of any item on your person (assuming the store actually carries said item).

    I personally will not shop anywhere where the policy is to search customers on the way out. It's not my responsibility to help them manage their own employees. I'm not a cow and have no intention of giving an inch where constitutional rights are concened.

  • by adminstring ( 608310 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:49PM (#20707851)
    Your request for documentation sparked my curiosity, so I went looking... After half an hour of searching the 'net, it seems to be the case that Larry Craig has never mentioned homosexuals either in Congressional debate or in any publication. He has of course voted along with most of the Republican party and part of the Democratic party, against the best interests of homosexuals, but it looks to me like depictions of him as a hardcore gay-hater are quite inflated.

    He's most likely just another "good ole boy" who is willing to sell the rights of gays down the river in exchange for some bubba votes back home and some mutual back scratching from his GOP colleagues. This makes his outing less of a story, and makes him less of a tragic villain. Probably so many exaggerations are flying around because we like to hear a good dramatic story, and the reality of the situation isn't all that engaging.

    Not that homophobia in Congress isn't a bad thing, and not that he didn't participate in it with his votes, but Larry Craig wasn't at the center of it, and he was never Jerry Falwell's right-hand man. Maybe the next scandal will be more titillating :-).
  • by SonicSpike ( 242293 ) on Sunday September 23, 2007 @03:57PM (#20721471) Journal
    Rudy will not win because of his stance on abortion and gun control. The only 3 that have a chance are Paul, Huckabee, and Thompson. Of those 3 Paul is the only one dedicated to getting us out of Iraq, thus he is the only one who can beat Hitlary in the general election. If Paul doesn't get the nomination, its Hillary time ugh

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982