Not long after Michael Sexton filed a lawsuit against Colorado Springs over his arrest for using the word "fuck" in an exchange with city police officers, Eric Brandt settled a nearly three-year-old complaint over a similar incident in Englewood.
According to the settlement reached earlier this month, Englewood has agreed to pay Brandt $30,000, as well as mandate the use of body cameras for its police officers within eighteen months — sooner than the July 1, 2023, deadline established by police-reform legislation passed in June by the Colorado Legislature — and "conduct training related to First Amendment issues."
Brandt considers himself to be something of a mentor for Sexton when it comes to such battles. As he points out via email, "It just so happens that I am the EXPERT on the word 'FUCK.'"
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Indeed, Brandt is a well-known figure in metro Denver owing to his proclivity for pedaling around the area on a bicycle rigged with an oversized faux hand, complete with extended middle finger, that's emblazoned with the phrase "FUCK COPS."
While Brandt prevailed in a Colorado Supreme Court case about jury nullification in September 2019 and scored a free-speech win over the City of Westminster the next month, he's taken his share of losses, too. In 2018, he was ordered to serve time for explicit sidewalk chalking, earning the same amount of time in stir as did former Westminster police officer Curtis Arganbright, who pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual contact and official misconduct while on duty (he forced a woman to engage in sex acts in August 2017). Arganbright was the cop who arrested Brandt in the chalking incident.
At times, Brandt has had legal representation from the likes of attorney David Lane. But not this time around: He represented himself in the action against Englewood, and as he points out, "I KICKED THEIR ASSES in federal district court PRO SE!"
Fortunately for Brandt, he had some compelling evidence about what went down. Although Englewood officers weren't wearing body cams during his December 12, 2017, arrest for use of profanities outside the Englewood Civic Center, Brandt and his supporters managed to capture the incident on video. Here's the clip that served as the centerpiece for the suit, shorthanded as Brandt v. Atkinson.
According to Brandt, an attorney for the City of Englewood reacted to the lawsuit by requesting "a settlement conference even before their first response deadline." That led to an early-August sit-down with federal magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty.
Brandt maintains that the city's attorneys tried to include a gag order in the settlement pact, but "I immediately rejected the deal as an absolute show stopper. Activism does not happen in a closet! Under no circumstances was I willing to enter into a confidential agreement! So Judge Hegarty brought us back to court and they corrected the terms."
City of Englewood spokesperson Christopher Harguth provided the following statement about the settlement:
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The City of Englewood recently settled a claim arising out of a 2017 incident. At that time, Englewood Police were dispatched to reports of an individual standing in front of the Englewood Civic Center screaming profanities and waving a sign containing expletives. This behavior was frightening and concerning to many visitors attempting to visit the library or conduct business with the city. Without the use of force, Englewood Police Officers arrested Mr. Eric Brandt for disorderly conduct. Mr. Brandt alleged his First Amendment right to Free Speech was infringed upon by his removal from the area. He based his claim on recent case law, including a case in which the United States Supreme Court determined that members of the Westboro Baptist Church were permitted under the First Amendment to scream expletives at the funeral of an active duty service member. The City of Englewood Police Department conducts frequent training to ensure that all Englewood Police Officers are aware of, and are respectful of, a person’s First Amendment Rights, while also ensuring the continued safety and welfare of the public. While it is upsetting to community members to be exposed to this type of behavior, the City of Englewood and the Chief of Police are proud of the Englewood Police Department’s record in responding to these types of incidents.
For his part, Brandt says he "dipped $20,000 down from my minimum acceptable agreement" in order to get Englewood to speed up its implementation of a body-camera program, but he has no regrets with the deal.
In his words, "The entire process was an enlightening experience which has restored much of my faith in our judiciary."
Click to read the Eric Brandt v. Atkinson settlement agreement.