Man at center of 'crippled girl' case files suit against City of Cincinnati
Jesse Folk, WCPO Digital
12:22 PM, May 21, 2013
4:43 PM, May 21, 2013
CINCINNATI - A Cincinnati free speech case is entering a new chapter as a man once tried for an incident at Party in the Park is now suing the city.
Lawyers with Manley Burke LPA have filed a suit against the City of Cincinnati on behalf of Forest Thomer, of Cold Spring, Ky.
Thomer was acquitted in November of disorderly conduct. The charges stemmed from an incident early in the 2012 in which Thomer asked attendees at a Party in the Park celebration if they wanted to "laugh at my crippled friend."
Thomer said he was helping his friend Allison Bruener promote her comedy show. Bruener has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.
Thomer filed suit against the city for false arrest, malicious prosecution and deprivation of his constitutional rights.
For her part, Bruener has said in the past that she uses humor to try to remove stigma about people with disabilities.
In Thomer's previous trial, prosecutors had said the man was arrested for "turbulent behavior" and not his speech.
WCPO Digital spoke with Thomer's attorney, Mark Painter, via telephone on Tuesday.
Painter said the Chamber of Commerce -- who is the sponsor of Party in the Park -- has already settled with his client. The attorney said they had offered to mediate with both the Chamber and the City but city officials had declined the offer.
"I hope to have a victory for free speech," Thomer said. "I think that what happens was wrong, an example needs to be set."
Thomer said he's had trouble getting business ever since the trial. Currently he's working on a donation campaign with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and is trying to bring Ellen DeGeneres to the city for an event. He said he recently sent a $1,000 check to the foundation as part of his fundraising.
Thomer said his family and friends have been supportive throughout the ordeal and he even gets some support from online fans. However, he feels he still has a stigma about him as he goes about the city.
Since the trial, he said Bruener has been out performing at a lot of her own shows, especially in Louisville. Thomer said his own comedic work has taken a backseat while he dealt with his trial and initial talks with the Chamber and the City.
Thomer said dealing with this case has made him worry about the public's perception of their Constitutional freedoms.
"What I want the public to take is that they have rights. We constantly see other people's rights being violated, and I don't think people feel they have rights. People need to step up and fight for their rights. If they don't, we're going to lose them. I don't want people to be afraid to do what's right," Thomer said.
Painter said the city has acknowledged the suit and the first hearing should happen in the next few months.