Man sues over Cheney confrontation
October 4, 2006
EAGLE COUNTY – The man detained by a Secret Service agent June 16 in Beaver Creek for allegedly “acting strangely” near Vice President Dick Cheney is suing the agent for violating his constitutional rights.Golden resident Steven Howards, 54, said he and his family were at the resort for a piano camp, which coincided with an economic summit Cheney was attending.”If taking your kid to piano class is strange then I’m a strange dad,” Howards said.Howards said he politely approached Cheney – who was shaking hands and posing for photographs with the crowd – while walking his 11-year-old son to piano class.Howards said he told the vice president “Your policies in Iraq are reprehensible.”The father of two admits he might have touched Cheney on the elbow or shoulder.Howards dropped off his son at the class and picked up his 9-year-old son. Agent Virgil “Gus” Reichle Jr. confronted Howards about 10 minutes after his comment to Cheney and asked if he assaulted the vice president, which Howards denied.”If exercising my right to free speech is against the law, then arrest me,” Howards said he told Reichle. The agent handcuffed Howards and told him he was under arrest for assaulting the vice president, Howards said.Reichle brought Howards to the Eagle County jail, where Sheriff’s deputies ticketed Howards for harassment rather than assault.District Attorney Mark Hurlbert dismissed the charges about a month later because Cheney didn’t want to pursue the charge and the attorney’s office couldn’t prove Howards touched the vice president.”Saying something to the vice president is not harassment,” Hurlbert said.Howards filed suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court against Reichle for illegal search and seizure and retaliation while exercising free speech, violations of the Fourth and First Amendments, respectively, the lawsuit says.”This is such an egregious attempt to suppress freedom of speech,” Howards said.Howards is seeking compensation for attorney’s fees, emotional distress, loss of reputation, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life and other pain and suffering, the lawsuit says.