Vendor Wins Partial Victory After Being Tossed From County Fair

By LANA MORELLI

(CN) – A federal judge in Pennsylvania granted a partial victory to a food vendor who claimed local sheriff’s deputies handcuffed him in front of customers at a county fair as part of a shakedown for cash.

The Huntingdon County Fair has been a showcase for farmers and those who raise livestock in central Pennsylvania for 185 years.

In a federal complaint filed in April, carnival vendor Dennis Gresh says that in April 2013, he accepted an offer from the Huntingdon County Agricultural Association to provide concessions at the annual event and soon hired three young people to staff the concession stand.

Under the terms of his agreement with the association, Gresh was obligated to pay his new workers $100 in advance and $500 at the conclusion of their four-day work week.

Gresh says he ultimately had to fire one of these workers for failure to perform his duties and agreed to pay him on the last night, as specified in the contract.

However, that failed to mollify the disgruntled fired worker, who returned to the concession stand, shouting and causing a scene, which impeded business sales, the complaint said.

Gresh said he asked his former employee to leave, but the young man responded by shouting “I’m going to have you kicked out of the fair.”

Gresh said he turned to the local sheriff for help, but that they used the situation as an excuse to “publically humiliate.”

According to the complaint, sheriff’s deputies responded to his plea for help by shouting at him and telling him, “Get back to your stand–well deal with you later.”

When the deputies did return to Gresh’s stand, they handcuffed him, ordered him to pay the fired employee in cash, and “threatened that if he did not pay them, then and there, they would take him to the local police precinct and put him in jail for theft by deception.”

Gresh paid the fired worker and was ordered to leave the fairgrounds. The vendor then filed his lawsuit.

In a Nov. 4 ruling, Chief U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner held that the sheriff’s deputies violated Gresh’s Fourth Amendment rights unlawfully seizing him and subjecting him to false imprisonment.

However, Judge Conner declined to go along with Gresh’s other claim, which was that the termination of vendor relationship with the fair directly benefited a competitor, Bartlebaugh Amusements.

Conner said Gresh failed to prove his claim that the defendants engaged in a business conspiracy when he was thrown off the fair property.