Published: August 4, 2009
The Boston police officer who was suspended last week for describing Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., as a “banana-eating jungle monkey” in an email to a local newspaper is suing the Boston Police Department and the city’s mayor for infringing on his civil rights and causing him — among other things — “emotional distress” and “post-traumatic stress.”
According to a report in the Boston Globe, Justin Barrett’s lawsuit accuses the city and the police department of “conspiring to intentionally inflict emotional distress and conspiring to intentionally interfere with the property rights, due process rights, and civil rights of the plaintiff.’’
The lawsuit says Boston’s mayor and police chief caused Barrett “pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, post-traumatic stress, sleeplessness, indignities and embarrassment, degradation, injury to reputation, and restrictions on personal freedom.”
Boston Mayor Tom Menino called Barrett a “cancer” that “doesn’t have any place in the department” after it was revealed Barrett had sent a letter to the Boston Globe criticizing the paper’s coverage of the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr., last month.
Police commissioner Edward F. Davis suspended Barrett last Wednesday, stripping the officer of his badge and gun.
“If I was the officer [Gates] verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC [pepper spray] deserving of his belligerent non-compliance,” Barrett wrote in the email.
Gates was arrested on a public disorder charge on the front porch of his own home after a police officer suspected him of breaking into his own home. Gates charged the incident was a case of racial profiling. The story became a national controversy after President Obama said police “acted stupidly” in arresting Gates.
Cambridge, Mass., police and the Middlesex County prosecutor quickly dropped the charge against Gates. Legal analysts say there are no grounds for arresting someone on a public disorder charge when they are on their own private property.
Harvard University, Gates’ employer, has reportedly suggested to Gates that he move, in the wake of death threats the professor has received since the story of his arrest went public.
From Tuesday’s Boston Herald:
Officer Justin Barrett, 36, claims in the suit he filed yesterday that Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Police Commissioner Edward Davis acted as “prosecutor, judge, jury” by saying publicly Barrett would be fired.
In his suit, Barrett alleges the worldwide media spotlight that shone on him after the dissemination of the e-mail, along with remarks by Menino and Davis, made him ill and caused “injury (to his) reputation.”
Several high-profile media figures have come to Barrett’s defense in the week since his email went public, most notably conservative commentator Ann Coulter and CNN personality Larry King.
“Liberals are bitterly disappointed that Sergeant Crowley — they couldn’t find anything on him suggesting he’s a racist,” Coulter told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Friday. “So they got this one cop who sends a stupid, immature, intemperate e-mail and now he’s apologizing all over the place. If Gates doesn’t … apologize, how about a little fairness for this guy, doing something immature and irrational too.”
Larry King last week also appeared to advocate on Barrett’s behalf.
Speaking of Barrett’s appearance on Larry King Live Thursday night, King said Barrett has “humbled himself tonight, he’s come forward, he’s formally apologized, maybe we could all seek a little forgiveness.”
The following video was posted to the New England Cable News site on August 4, 2009: