Gun rights advocate accepts $25K settlement in Phila. 'open carry' case

Jon Campisi Mar. 8, 2012, 2:47pm

The gun rights advocate who sued the City of Philadelphia and a handful of police officials for violating his civil rights during incidents in which officers allegedly harassed him for openly carrying his firearm has agreed to accept a cash settlement from the defendants.

Court records show that Fiorino has been offered $25,000 for all claims from damages, costs, attorney’s fees and interest relating to his case.

The offer of judgment, which was signed by Assistant City Solicitor Amanda C. Shoffel, is dated Feb. 17, but it was not made public until Fiorino accepted the offer on March 8.

Paperwork showing Fiorino accepted the settlement was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which is where Fiorino filed suit on Feb. 14 against the City of Philadelphia, Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey, Police Sgt. Michael Dougherty, Detective Thomas F. Boyd, and three other named officers, plus an unknown number of John Doe officers.

The settlement notice states that the defendants are making no admission of liability or that the plaintiff has suffered any damages.

The settlement was also announced by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, whose attorneys represented Fiorino alongside lawyer Benjamin Picker of the Radnor, Pa. law firm McCausland, Keen & Buckman.

In a statement released by the ACLU, Picker is quoted saying that while the case won’t be going to trial, the city and police department officials involved know that they need to be made better aware of the guns laws in Pennsylvania.

“This was never about the money,” Picker said in his statement. “Mr. Fiorino was seeking change in the way the City trains its police officers and vindication in connection with the violation of his constitutional rights.

“The City and the individual officers, including Commissioner Ramsey, have agreed to the entry of a judgment against them, which shows that they are cognizant of having violated Mr. Fiorino’s constitutional rights.”

In his statement, Picker also points out that since the lawsuit’s filing, the city has taken the steps to better train its officers on the rights at issue in this case “to prevent this from happening again.”

The rights in question as mentioned by Picker have to do with a citizen’s right to openly carry a gun within city limits.

The Fiorino case sparked widespread discussion of the topic of “open carry,” which is when a firearm owner carries his gun in a holster on the outside of his clothing.

Many of the officers named in the lawsuit believed one had to carry a firearm concealed when in Philadelphia. This included Commissioner Ramsey, who admitted his ignorance during subsequent interviews with local media.

Open carry within the city limits requires a License to Carry Firearms; citizens can carry openly throughout the rest of the commonwealth with no license whatsoever.

In addition to claiming his civil rights were violated when officers forced him to the ground at gunpoint during an exchange last year in which a police sergeant mistakenly believed Fiorino couldn’t openly carry his gun, the lawsuit had also claimed that police officials retaliated against him after Fiorino posted audio of the encounter on the website Youtube.

Fiorino, who had a recorder playing during his encounter with the sergeant, (legal under state law), was subsequently charged with disorderly conduct and reckless endangerment, criminal charges he said were lodged against him strictly in retaliation for him airing the audio clip publicly.

Fiorino was found not guilty of the criminal charges during a bench trial at Philadelphia Municipal Court.


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