Former JDHS student sues police over alleged harassment

Posted: Tuesday, January 27, 2004

A Juneau resident has sued local police, an officer and the city, claiming he was the victim of a "campaign of harassment, false arrests, illegal searches and destruction of property."

Joseph Frederick alleges officer Kevin Fermin falsely arrested him while the Juneau-Douglas High School senior was serving a suspension for unfurling a banner with drug references during the 2002 Olympic Torch Relay. Filed Jan. 20 by local attorney Paul H. Grant, the suit seeks at least $100,000 in actual damages, in addition to unspecified punitive damages.

The suit says Fermin arrested Frederick on the afternoon of Jan. 30, 2002, while the senior was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool.

Frederick's suspension prohibited him from being on school property, but the pool and its parking lot are not on school grounds, Frederick wrote.

Frederick offered Fermin a map to show that he was not trespassing on school grounds when the officer confronted him, Grant added.

Fermin ordered Frederick to leave the car, then arrested him on a criminal trespassing charge and handcuffed him, according to the suit. Frederick was booked into the Lemon Creek Correctional Center. Fermin ordered his car impounded, although Frederick had authorized a licensed driver at the scene to drive it to his home.

"There was no probable cause for Frederick's arrest," Grant wrote. "No reasonable officer, given the totality of the circumstances present at the scene, would believe there was probable cause for Frederick's arrest."

According to the suit, Frederick's car was damaged during a search. Grant alleges it was conducted in violation of his client's rights to be free from unlawful search and seizure.

In March 2002, Frederick was stopped by an officer who alleged he had failed to signal for a left turn. Grant wrote that the officer would have issued Frederick a warning, if Fermin had not arrived on the scene and taken him to the state prison in handcuffs.

Police told the Empire after the arrest that a warrant had been issued alleging Frederick had not complied with terms of his sentence for an underage drinking conviction in July 2001. Doug Mertz, then acting as Frederick's attorney, disputed the allegation and said his client was the victim of "continued harassment."

The suit alleges false arrest, unlawful search and seizure, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress and deprivation of civil rights.

Asked for comment on the suit, Juneau Police Capt. Tom Porter referred questions to Juneau City Attorney John Hartle.

Hartle confirmed that his office dismissed the trespassing charge against Frederick. He said his response to the allegations would be filed with the court, as required, in early February.

He said he will be working with police in researching his response.

Frederick was a senior when he was suspended from JDHS for 10 days on Jan. 24, 2002. He was holding a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus," as the Olympic torch passed the school on Glacier Avenue.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that Juneau school officials did not violate Frederick's rights by confiscating the banner.

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