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Policeman Wins Discrimination Suit Against ACLU

July 23, 1987

.......................CORRECTION OF JULY 24, 1987....................... (AP) _ The Associated Press, in a story Thursday about a discrimination lawsuit judgment in favor of a policeman who said he was ″fingered as a spy″ at a local American Civil Liberties Union meeting, erroneously reported that the ruling was against the ACLU’s national organization.

The judgment, $20,000 to Newport Beach Police Sgt. Richard T. Longunder, was against the local ACLU affiliate - ACLU of Southern California.(1713EDT) ..........................................................................

A police officer who said he was ″fingered as a spy″ at an American Civil Liberties Union meeting was discriminated against and should get $20,000 from the group, a jury ruled.

The ACLU said it would appeal Wednesday’s verdict in favor of Newport Beach Sgt. Richard T. Long, believed to be the first time the 65-year-old, 250,000- member organization was found guilty of violating someone’s rights.

Long was not in court because he was camping with his family.

In his discrimination lawsuit, Long contended that he was insulted and thrown out of an Oct. 11, 1980, ACLU seminar on police surveillance practices.

The officer alleged he was singled out by the speaker, Linda Valentino, and asked to step outside to explain his presence by Rees Lloyd, then an ACLU attorney.

″I’m fingered as a spy in this big meeting,″ Long testifed last week. ″I could feel my hands shaking. I had this vision of my career crashing and burning.″

Publicity about the incident destroyed his work as the Police Department’s community-relations officer, he said.

″We certainly meant to vindicate him,″ juror Raymond Spinnett of Santa Ana said. ″His credibility was called into question because of what happened.″

The jury found that Long was thrown out of the public seminar simply because he was a police officer.

The verdict, coming after three days of deliberation, is a warning that police officers should not be treated as second-class citizens simply because they are government workers, said Long’s attorney, Jeffrey Epstein.

″I think he’s a human being before he’s an officer,″ said juror Sally Tatham of Huntington Beach.

The ACLU, which argued that Long was not ejected from the meeting but only questioned about his unannounced presence, said the verdict would harm free- speech rights.

″If you have to be worried about getting sued for talking to the government, you aren’t likely to be as free with your speech as you ought to be,″ said ACLU attorney Robin Meadow. ″To have this happen on the 200th anniversary of the Constitution is very distressing.″

Meadow said Superior Court Judge Henry T. Moore Jr. refused to recognize legal rulings that speech against a public official is protected, and the case will be appealed on those grounds.

The ACLU was ordered to pay $9,000 of the award, while Ms. Valentino, who is now an ACLU director, was ordered to pay $1,000. Lloyd was assessed the remaining $10,000.

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