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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ticketed Finger Flipper Can’t Sue State Trooper

SCRANTON, Pa. (CN) - A state trooper didn't violate the First Amendment by citing a motorist who flashed the middle finger to another driver, a federal judge ruled.

Anthony Favata's federal lawsuit says Kevin Seidel, a Pennsylvania state trooper, cited him for disorderly conduct solely for flipping the bird to another motorist on a highway exit ramp.

But Seidel said he had not even seen the gesture and cited both drivers after interviewing them.

The drivers gave starkly different accounts of what occurred on the road that day.

Favata said in deposition that the other driver, Dale Rapson, was tailgating him for roughly 20 seconds and honking his horn in an apparent rage.

Favata said he flipped the bird twice - once while Rapson was still seated in his vehicle and once after Rapson had allegedly left the vehicle and appeared at Favata's driver-side door.

But Rapson said a laughing Favata repeatedly swerved his vehicle, nearly causing a collision, and kept Rapson from driving on the shoulder of the road.

U.S. District Judge Richard Conaboy said in a 12-page opinion that Seidel had probable cause to issue the citation based simply on the "vehicular brinksmanship Rapson attributed to Favata" during Seidel's interview.

Awarding summary judgment to the trooper, he said Favata's claim that the citation resulted from the finger flash or another improver motive is irrelevant.

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