Life Legal’s 2008 Attorney of the Year, Tom Condit, recently filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, Southern District of Ohio, Case No. 3: 11CV171, on behalf of Daniel Pollion and several other individuals who were falsely accused of unlawful conduct and arrested by campus authorities in 2009. The accusations arose from the plaintiffs’ lawful and peaceful exercise of their free speech rights at the Building Seven Plaza area of the Sinclair Community College Campus in Dayton, Ohio. Among the scurrilous charges filed by campus authorities was failure to obtain a permit to display a sign, assaulting a police officer, obstructing official business and resisting arrest.
On May 20, 2009, Mr. Pollion and his colleagues with the Wisconsin-based Faithful Soldiers School of Evangelism were in the Plaza area talking and preaching to students about the gospel, sexual purity and the sanctity of human life. At all times they were in compliance with the campus guidelines as understood during a 2008 visit when Jason Storms, the leader of the Faithful Soldiers, spent time discussing and understanding policy with campus officials. The Plaza is the preferred outdoor gathering place for Sinclair students and others spending time on campus. It is used as a traditional public forum for speech and assembly in every sense of the term. One hundred or more people might gather in the Plaza Area at a time, some as individuals, others in groups of various sizes. Typical plaza activities include reading, playing music, Frisbee throwing, talking, laughing, shouting and debating issues. Loud laughing and talking is not unusual and does not violate Sinclair policy. At times there can be a carnival type atmosphere in the Plaza area. Despite the usually free and easy atmosphere of the Plaza, the message of Mr. Pollion and his colleagues was not welcomed by campus authorities.
Five of the Faithful Soldiers were arrested for disorderly conduct or criminal trespass for what was actually basic speech and assembly activities. Most serious was the fabricated charge that Mr. Pollion had assaulted a police officer (a felony) during the arrests. Last summer a Grand Jury was convened regarding the charges against Mr. Pollion, which also included obstructing official business and resisting arrest. It should be noted that the county prosecuting attorney convened the Grand Jury in a fair and impartial manner, allowing them to hear from neutral witnesses—all of whom contradicted the arresting officer’s story of unlawful and violent conduct by Mr. Pollion. The Grand Jury refused to indict Mr. Pollion.
As to the others arrested, Katie Carroll was never even charged, a disorderly conduct charge against Mr. Storms was dismissed by the prosecutor before trial, and trespass charges against Caleb Green and Candace Riley were dismissed by the judge after the prosecution rested its case. All of those results strongly suggest a lack of probable cause for the arrests and criminal charges.
Life Legal applauds Mr. Condit for going on the offensive in filing the federal complaint seeking damages and injunctive relief against Sinclair College officials. This type of action often proves most effective in defending the free speech rights of pro-life advocates, and Life Legal remains committed to supporting Mr. Condit’s lifesaving work in the courts.