In his lawsuit, Friend said that Gasparino stopped him from holding the sign because he was “interfering with our police investigation.” It then alleges that Gasparino took his cellphone and explained that the seizure was to “protect [him]self from any false claims of physical abuse.” It also recounts that:
On the ride to the police station, [Officer] Deems told Mr. Friend that he attracted police attention because he was “interfering with our livelihood.”
Deems explained to Mr. Friend that the cellphone sting was operated as an overtime assignment, funded by a federal grant which would require the Stamford police to issue a certain number of tickets in order for the grant to be renewed.
By warning motorists, Deems claimed, Mr. Friend was decreasing the number of tickets that the Stamford employees could issue, and therefore decreasing their chances of earning overtime on a cellphone sting grant in the future.
Putting aside the credible case of possible police abuse, the action clearly curtailed Friend’s free speech rights.