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  Assault arrest followed word to Cheney

Denver Post | October 4, 2006

By Mike McPhee

Arrest over Cheney barb triggers lawsuit

A Golden man is suing a Secret Service agent who arrested him after he made a caustic comment to Vice President Dick Cheney on a sidewalk in Beaver Creek last June.

Steven Howards, 54, a consultant to non-profit organizations, was vacationing with his family in Beaver Creek when he spotted Cheney in an outdoor mall shaking hands and posing for photos. Howards and his son walked over and told Cheney that his policies in Iraq are "reprehensible."

Howards said he may have touched Cheney on the elbow or shoulder, like others in the crowd.

Howards kept walking to his son's piano lesson. He returned to the spot about ten minutes later with another son, and that's when Secret Service agent Virgil Reichle handcuffed and arrested Howards for assaulting the vice president.

The charge was later reduced to harassment, then dismissed in Eagle County Court a month later.

Howards is suing for unlawful seizure, unlawful search and retaliation for exercising his constitutional right to free speech. The lawsuit was filed today in federal court in Denver.

Lon Garner, special agent in charge of the Secret Service in Denver, declined to comment and said Reichle would not be made available for an interview. A spokeswoman for the Secret Service in Washington did not immediately return a call. A White House spokesman referred questions to the Secret Service.

In the lawsuit, Howards claims Reichle violated his First Amendment right to free speech and his Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

"It's such a blatant attempt to suppress a right to free speech. Such a traumatic event for my son, I couldn't just let it pass," Howards told the Associated Press Monday night, before the suit was filed.

Howards accused Reichle of "badgering" him about whether he assaulted or touched Cheney.

Howards said he told Reichle, "If Mr. Cheney wants to be shielded from criticism he should avoid public places. I closed by telling him, 'If exercising my constitutionally protected rights to free speech is against the law, you should arrest me."' Howards said he was assertive with Reichle but not argumentative.

The lawsuit asks for money for attorneys fees and damages that include loss of enjoyment of life.

Arrest over Cheney barb triggers lawsuit

Rocky Mountain News | October 3, 2006
By Charlie Brennan

A Denver-area man filed a lawsuit today against a member of the Secret Service for causing him to be arrested after he approached Vice President Dick Cheney in Beaver Creek this summer and criticized him for his policies concerning Iraq.

Attorney David Lane said that on June 16, Steve Howards was walking his 7-year-old son to a piano practice, when he saw Cheney surrounded by a group of people in an outdoor mall area, shaking hands and posing for pictures with several people.

According to the lawsuit filed at U.S. District Court in Denver, Howards and his son walked to about two-to-three feet from where Cheney was standing, and said to the vice president, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible," or words to that effect, then walked on.

Ten minutes later, according to Howards' lawsuit, he and his son were walking back through the same area, when they were approached by Secret Service agent Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr., who asked Howards if he had "assaulted" the vice president. Howards denied doing so, but was nonetheless placed in handcuffs and taken to the Eagle County Jail.

The lawsuit states that the Secret Service agent instructed that Howards should be issued a summons for harassment, but that on July 6 the Eagle County District Attorney's Office dismissed all charges against Howards.

The lawsuit filed today alleges that Howards was arrested in retaliation for having exercised his First Amendment right of free speech, and that his arrest violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unlawful seizure.


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