Government Law

City Attorney Blamed for Arrest of Woman, 60, Who Exceeded 3-Minute Speech Limit at Council Meeting

Following the arrest last week of a California woman who was handcuffed and taken out of a Riverside City Council meeting after exceeding her three-minute limit for public comment, officials said it was a police officer’s call to handle the situation in this manner.

But in a police incident report describing the Oct. 23 arrest of 60-year-old Karen Wright suggests otherwise. It says arresting officer Nick Sahagun had been told by City Attorney Greg Priamos, after Wright exceeded her time limit at an earlier council meeting, that the officer should “stop” her from “going too long past the three-minute allotted time” at future council meetings, reports the Press-Enterprise.

The incident report was released by the California city on Tuesday in response to a public records request by the newspaper. Its article also links to a video of Wright’s arrest.

Priamos denied that he had directed officers to arrest or remove anyone from the meeting, but declined to provide details, citing attorney-client privilege, the newspaper reports. “I made a brief statement to the officer, and what was represented in that report is not entirely accurate,” Priamos stated.

Wright said she was trying to return to her chair when Sahagun stood in her way and knocked her down. The officer asked her to sit down, the newspaper recounts, and Sahagun said in his report that he then asked her to step outside and took her arm to guide her after she said she wasn’t going to sit down. At that point, he wrote, Wrighte “dropped to the ground and started yelling.”

A post on the Yahoo! News blog The Sideshow provides further details and also links to a video of Wright’s arrest.

It notes that the video shows police forcibly handcuffing Wright, who was then on her knees, and saying “Can you see my wrists? You’re pulling and jerking on my wrists!” She also told the officers “I cannot get up without putting my hands down!”.

Wright was cited with a misdemeanor for disrupting a public meeting and has a court date in late December.

Mayor Ron Loveridge has announced that in future police will not be allowed to make arrests concerning disruptions of council meetings, except at the direction of the chair.

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