ST. LOUIS (CN) - A Republican committee member claims in court that after a rigged GOP caucus meeting his city arrested him on bogus trespassing charges because he is a Ron Paul supporter.
Brent Stafford sued the City of St. Peters and its police Officer Tim Hickey, in Federal Court. They are the only defendants.
Stafford says he was a member of the St. Charles County Republican Central Committee, which hosted the Republican Caucus on March 17, 2012. Stafford was also a leader of the local Ron Paul for President campaign.
He claims Eugene Dokes, chairman of the St. Charles County Republican Party Central Committee, assigned Bryan Spencer to organize the March 17 caucus.
Spencer rented the gym at Francis Howell High School and Dokes signed a contract with St. Peters for police security for the event, the complaint states.
Stafford claims Dokes was concerned about Paul winning the caucus and warned Hickey and Lt. Kevin Turnbough that Paul's supporters could cause trouble.
"At the start of the caucus, Spencer announced that contrary to written caucus
policies, no video or audio recording would be allowed," the complaint states.
"Many caucus participants were angered by this announcement, suspecting it was a prelude to parliamentary shenanigans that Dokes and Spencer did not want captured on video."
Stafford claims the officers asked for backup, which arrived within 30 minutes.
One person refused to stop videotaping and was arrested and Dokes continued the caucus, Stafford says in the complaint.
"Fearing plaintiff's election as caucus chair, Dokes accepted the nomination of
Matt Ehlen to serve as caucus chair and immediately closed the nomination process before anyone else could be nominated, including plaintiff," the complaint states.
"Dokes's trickery upset supporters of Mitt Romney and Ron Paul supporters, the
latter who expected that, given that they represented the majority of those present at their caucus, they would be able to nominate and elect plaintiff as chair as they had done at the 2008 St. Charles County caucus.
"Using the anger at their trickery as a pretext, Dokes and Spencer, along with
Ehlen, then adjourned the caucus without allocating delegates.
"The real reason was that they did not want Ron Paul supporters to be elected
Stafford claims people at the caucus were threatened with arrest if they didn't leave the gym. He says he complied, but some didn't.
"Plaintiff departed the gymnasium, not because he believed he was not entitled to be in the gymnasium, but rather in an attempt to assemble caucus attendees outside before they drove home, because he feared that under Republican Party rules, St. Charles County would be unrepresented if it did not designate its delegates that particular day - March 17, 2012.
"When plaintiff departed the gymnasium, many caucus attendees remained in the
"Nobody was arrested or charged with trespassing for staying in the gymnasium
after being ordered to leave upon the premature adjournment of the caucus.
"Upon exiting the building, plaintiff encouraged departing caucus attendees to
gather around him so he could engage them in political speech."
Stafford says he stood on a chair to address the people who were, leaving and did not obstruct anyone.
"Hickey directed Officer Jacob Bass to arrest plaintiff," the complaint states.
"Plaintiff was not told he was trespassing.
"Plaintiff was not asked to leave the sidewalk outside.
"At Hickey's direction, Bass then arrested plaintiff.
"Plaintiff asked why he was being arrested.
"Officers on the scene refused to answer plaintiff's question.
"Plaintiff was handcuffed, placed in a police car, transported to the City of St.
Peters, booked, and held for approximately three hours.
"None of the several hundred caucus attendees who had exited the gymnasium, including the scores of persons standing near plaintiff, was arrested."
Stafford was charged with trespassing and was acquitted, he says.
He seeks punitive damages for false arrest, malicious prosecution and constitutional violations.
He is represented by Anthony Rothert with the ACLU in St. Louis.