Federal jury in Pa. denies Canadian motorists' claims of civil rights violations

Jon Campisi Dec. 16, 2011, 12:10pm

A federal court jury in Harrisburg on Tuesday denied a Canadian man’s claims of civil rights violations that had been made against a Pennsylvania State Trooper four years ago.

The decision came after a brief trial at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Ontario resident Nana Kyeame had claimed in a 2007 lawsuit that Trooper Nicholas Buchheit violated his civil rights after an incident a year before in which the police officer, after pulling Kyeame over for speeding, told the plaintiff that he would be placed under arrest unless Kyeame paid Buchheit in cash at the scene of the alleged traffic infraction.

“The Defendant told the Plaintiff that this cash payment was necessary to pay the Plaintiff’s fines and costs for the speeding violation,” the lawsuit had alleged.

Kyeame claimed he didn’t have enough cash at the time to give to the state trooper.

The lawsuit claimed that the insistence for a cash payment at a traffic stop is not authorized under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code or motor vehicle code, and that officers are actually required to “escort” a non-resident violator to a local district court for a “hearing, posting of bond or payment of the applicable fines and costs,” the suit had stated.

After Kyeame was denied a chance to go to an ATM to withdraw cash, the suit claims, the trooper attempted to place the plaintiff in handcuffs and a struggle ensued.

Kyeame had alleged in his suit that he told Buchheit at the time that he and his wife had to get back to their home in Canada to relieve a baby sitter, but that the trooper stated “Plaintiff’s children were not his problem and that he did not care about the Plaintiff or the Plaintiff’s children,” the suit had claimed.

Kyeame ended up spending the next three days in county jail after being unable to post $10,000 cash bail, the suit claimed.

Kyeame’s legal team included members of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

On Tuesday, after a three-day trial before U.S. District Judge Yvette Kane, the jury ruled that Kyeame failed to prove Buccheit violated his rights, or engaged in false arrest, malicious prosecution or used excessive force, according to court records.

Kyeame had released from the county jail after three days because prosecutors dropped resisting arrest charges against the Canadian motorist, the Patriot-News in Harrisburg reported.

In Buccheit’s response to the complaint, which was included as a case filing in the court docket, the trooper had denied that his behavior was “unlawful, erratic and abusive.”

Buccheit had also denied that he made the alleged remarks about not caring about the plaintiff’s children.

The defendant’s response also claimed civil immunity from liability by virtue of his profession, and claimed that there was, indeed, probable cause for the driver’s arrest.

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