David Hackbarth, a resident of Tampa, Florida, has agreed to a $ 50,000 settlement with the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a Pittsburgh policeman after being accused of hooliganism when he accidentally showed an officer his middle finger.
On April 10, 2006, Hackbart was trying to park in parallel when a car stopped behind him, preventing him from returning to his seat. Hackbart turned in his place and turned the driver behind him. He said he heard someone shouting, “Don’t turn off this driver!” He turned and also pointed in the same direction.
The man Huckbart shot down turned out to be Pittsburgh Police Sergeant Brian Elledge, who was driving in the opposite direction. Elledge turned around, stopped Hackbart and punished him for disorderly conduct. He was found guilty by a district judge, but after Hackbart filed an appeal, the conviction was overturned by the assistant district attorney.
Hackbart sued Elledge and the City, claiming that his First and Fourth Amendments rights were violated because he was inappropriately referenced to a protected expression. He claimed to have suffered from stress and anxiety due to the possibility of serving a prison sentence and due to the numerous flights required to appear in court between Florida and Pennsylvania. He claimed between $ 500 and $ 600 in compensation for lost wages and travel expenses, as well as damages from emotional stress.
The defendants denied the accusations, arguing that Hackbart created a danger by blocking traffic, forcing the drivers behind him into the oncoming lane to avoid him. However, Elledge acknowledged that he had given the link in the wrong subsection A3, when it should have been under subsection A4. City officials claimed that they provided sufficient information about protected speech and appropriate responses to obscene words and gestures during the training of their officers.
The parties agreed to pay $ 50,000 on the first day of the trial.