No Good Deed….

Taylor, Michigan Police Officer Matthew Minard has just learned a hard lesson: no good deed goes unpunished.

In June, 2017 Officer Minard stopped Debra Cruise-Gulyas speeding.

He could have written her a speeding ticket that would have affected her insurance rates and all that, but instead wrote her a lesser ticket – a non-moving violation ticket thus giving the woman a break.

In response to his kindness, as Cruise-Gulyas drove off, she gave him a gift of her appreciation: she flipped him the bird. (And she wasn’t saying “you’re number one in my book, Officer!.”)

Outraged as any normal human being would be, Minard stopped the woman a second time less than 100 yards away and amended the ticket to reflect the original speeding charge.

Cruise-Gulyas sued Minard under §1983, alleging that he violated her constitutional rights by pulling her over a second time and changing the original ticket to a more serious violation. She claims he unreasonably seized her in violation of the Fourth (and Fourteenth) Amendment; retaliated against her because of her protected speech in violation of the First (and Fourteenth) Amendment; and restricted her liberty in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Minard claimed qualified immunity but a district court rejected that claim.

Minard appealed and the Sixth Circuit upheld the decision which means Cruise-Gulyas’ suit against Minard can go forward.

This is one of those cases where “what is moral may not be legal and what is legal, may not be moral.”

We understand Minard’s outrage at someone giving him the finger right after he had cut the woman a break. He was kind to her. She was obnoxious, rude and unappreciative to him. That’s the moral part. The legal part is that Cruise-Gulyas has the right to flip Minard the bird. The first stop was over and so without her doing something legally wrong, there was no probable cause for him to stop her the second time. That’s the legal violation which both the District and the Appeals Court ruled that Minard should have known better and not have stopped her the second time.

So now Officer Minard and the City of Taylor, Michigan will have to go to court or settle a case based on the premise that a woman who was an ungrateful jerk was stopped illegally by a cop who was upset that she didn’t appreciate what he had done to help her.

The costs of the trial will be borne by the taxpayers, but there is a part of us that hopes that the case goes to a jury where the woman wins and get the whopping verdict of $1.00. (Which means her court costs will be much greater than she recovers in the verdict.)

Sadly, there will be repercussions for the people of Taylor for this woman’s actions. From now on, we would bet that no one stopped by the police for a traffic violation will get a lesser violation. Why should the police use any discretion to lower a charge or help someone if their acts are going to result in the person saying “f*** you!”?

We sometimes write about bad cops and always wish that the good cops would be more active in trying to get rid of the bad ones. We don’t see that here. We don’t see Minard as a bad cop. We see him as a cop that gave a woman a break for her actions, and while not expecting a “thank you” or “kiss the ring” moment, did not expect or warrant her response. We think anyone in Minard’s situation would have been shocked and angered to some extent.

While we agree that Minard was wrong legally, Cruise-Gulyas was wrong morally.

We suspect that Minard will remember what happened in this case. We also suspect that Cruise-Gulyas will take her actions as a win, when in fact, we see them as a loss for her and her community.

As an aside, as we were reading about this case and the Sixth Circuit’s ruling, we were reminded of this video from 2017 where Ulster County (New York) Legislator Jennifer Schwartz Berky was stopped by Police Officer Gary Short.

Short stopped Berky for going 43 mph in a 30 mph zone, but to cut her a break and not have a large fine and 4 points put on her license, Short originally wrote the ticket for failing to wear a seatbelt which is not a moving violation (even though Berky was wearing her seatbelt.)

Short did not cite Berky for failing to have a valid registration or license as he was able to verify that via his police computer.

The video is cringe worthy.

No matter what Short says, Berky cuts him off. She makes excuse after excuse. He explains what he is trying to do and she tells him how it is wrong and unfair. Eventually, after roughly 25 minutes, Berky says that Short shouldn’t write her up for something she didn’t do.

Short, after trying to be the nice guy, tears up the sealbelt ticket and writes her one for the speed, sending Berky off in another rant and deflection of her responsibilities.

Berky literally talked herself into a greater ticket with a greater penalty.

There is justice in this case as Berky was up for re-election two weeks later and lost after the video was released under a freedom of information act request.

We wouldn’t want her representing us as given her reaction to a stressful – but not overly stressful – situation.

Kudos to Officer Short for remaining calm and more than professional in this encounter.

2 Responses to “No Good Deed….”

  1. Thomas L Gaume says:

    If Ms. Berky doesn’t understand a simple traffic citation how in the heck does she understand the complex items she’s casting a vote on.

    That she keeps mentioning that she’s an elected official as if that should garner her some special consideration or privilege.

    Elected officials need to understand that they deserve no more, or no less than every other citizen they represent.

  2. hometown says:

    That video is wild, i’m surprised she wasn’t arrested for just plain being so difficult, but that’s probably not against the law. The Policeman should get a medal for having the patience he did, I would have lost it after about 5 minutes of her ranting and carrying on. Guess she hadn’t heard the old saying, when you find yourself in a hole, quit digging – might have saved her some money.