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Bel Air Police cleared in protest lawsuit

The Bel Air Police Department has been cleared of wrongdoing in a federal lawsuit that claimed several officers participated in the illegal arrests of anti-abortion protestors in 2008.

After reviewing the allegations that then Deputy Chief Armand Dupre, Col. Mark Zulauf, and Officer D.J. Ravadge violated the first and fourth amendment rights of several pro-life protesters in 2008, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Bennett ruled Tuesday in favor of the Bel Air Police Department, according to information the town department released this week.

According to the 24-page opinion issued by Bennett, the 18 protesters, including the nine plaintiffs, were already lined up on the guardrail at the intersection of Routes 24 and 924 when Bel Air officers arrived.

State police initially contacted the protestors after receiving complaints from passersby and cited permit requirements as the basis for the arrest, even though no such requirement exists, according to the document.

Dupre and Zulauf had no contact with the arrestees, and Zulauf said he didn't know why the protestors were arrested or the nature of the charges until he read about it in the newspaper, according to the document.

Ravadge testified he arrived and handcuffed five or six people upon the instruction of a Maryland State Police trooper; however, the plaintiffs had no recollection of this. On the orders of his supervisor, Ravadge also conducted a cursory search of Laura Beeson, one of the plaintiffs.

The court ruled that the individuals were already arrested at the time Bel Air Police arrived.

The organization Defend Life previously settled with Harford County government, which made a monetary payment that county officials said wouldn't be disclosed until all the litigation was concluded. Information on the status of the suit against the Maryland State Police was not available Thursday.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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