DALLAS (CN) - Dallas officials illegally arrested and ticketed a JFK assassination researcher as part of a plan by the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to get rid of conspiracy vendors near the historical site, the man claims in court.
Robert Gruden sued the museum, its Executive Director Nicola Longford, its employee Bradley Hamilton and city officials Steve Warden, Raquel Hernandez and Carla Newman in Dallas County, on Valentine's Day.
Gruden wrote five best-selling books on the assassination, served as chief consultant to director Oliver Stone for the movie "JFK," and was the first person to bring Abraham Zapruder's film to national television in 1975, he claims in the 16-page lawsuit.
Gruden rents a parking space in a public parking lot next to Dealey Plaza, where he sells DVDs and books.
"He claims in the complaint: On numerous occasions over the next fifteen years, defendant Sixth Floor Museum, through its employees and its conspirators, engaged in a conspiratorial campaign to harass and intimidate plaintiff by requesting, issuing, and serving legally invalid citations, tickets, complaints, and charges against plaintiff, and improperly dragging plaintiff into court only to have each and every case thrown out and dismissed because they were without legal merit.
"In the early summer of 2010, defendant Sixth Floor Museum, acting in conspiracy with the Dallas Police Department and Dallas Parks and Recreation Department, publicly announced a new initiative to 'crack-down' on vendors in Dealey Plaza." Gruden claims the city spokesman, defendant Vincent Golbeck, told the media about the initiative while the museum and its director "falsely claimed non-involvement."
"However, defendants knew, based on the dismissal of many previous cases, that the initiative was not supported by valid legal authority," the complaint states. "Defendants proceeded with the illegal 'crack-down' anyway in order to prevent vendors in Dealey Plaza like plaintiff from exercising their legal rights."
Gruden said he was arrested on June 13, 2010, at the request of the museum, acting through defendants Longford and Hamilton and on the order of Golbek. He was cited for violating an ordinance against the sale of publications on public property and his property was seized.
Gruden said he was in county jail for more than 9 hours for a charge that was merely a Class C misdemeanor. He was forced to strip for an illegal body search and was denied access to his medication.
Gruden said the city later substantially changed the charge against him, in violation of due process - the original charge of selling a magazine did not apply to him.
He claims the new charge did not apply to him either, that the ordinance requires a written agreement or permit from the park board, but neither were available issue to sell JFK materials in Dealey Plaza, nor were any such agreements or permits in existence before the arrest.
"The new Complaint was verified by defendant (Carla D. Newman), who alleged that it was based on information provided by (nonparty police) Officer Frank Gorka. However, Officer Frank Gorka has denied under oath that he provided such information to defendant Newman."
Gruden claims that that on June 22, 2011, the city passed an amendment to the ordinance referred to in the new charge that clearly stated his activities were not illegal, yet it continued to prosecute him.
City officials could not be reached for comment Monday evening.
A group of conspiracy theorists threatened to sue Dallas for its closing of Dealey Plaza during the 50th anniversary of the assassination in November 2013, but a compromise was reached.
Gruden seeks actual and punitive damages for malicious prosecution and conspiracy. He is represented by D. Bradley Kizzia with Brown Fox in Dallas.Follow @davejourno
Subscribe to Closing Arguments
Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.