When you need a plunger, it becomes worth its weight in gold. Dawn Herb of Scranton, Pa., apparently didn’t have one, because her toilet was overflowing and she was cussing a blue streak. Not at anyone in particular, just at the situation.
Neighbor Patrick Gilman, who happens to be a cop, was off duty in his yard when he heard the outburst. Because he found Herb’s language offensive, he reportedly told her to “Shut the f*** up!”
The irony appears to have been lost on Gilman because—after Herb replied that he should, in so many words, mind his own business—he called the police and she was cited for disorderly conduct.
After Herb’s letter of complaint appeared in the Times-Tribune, the American Civil Liberties Union took up her case.
Mary Catherine Roper of the Pennsylvania branch of the ACLU says cursing at a police officer is not a punishable offense. “You do not violate a disorderly conduct statute by use of profanity,” she says. “It isn’t illegal to swear at a cop.”
Gilman could not be reached for comment.
Scranton Public Safety Director Ray Hayes was quoted as saying, “At the end of the day, the opinion that counts is of the magisterial judge.”
A summary trial in the case was scheduled for Dec. 10.
Adopting the tone of the original discourse between Herb and Gilman, Roper asks half-jokingly, “Instead of telling her to shut the eff up, why didn’t he just help her fix the effing toilet?”