APfl 08/17 1408 Hare Krishna Suit ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A Hare Krishna priest is suing thr
APfl 08/17 1408 Hare Krishna Suit
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- A Hare Krishna priest is suing three police officers
for $1 million in damages, claiming that he was insulted and deliberately
provoked into a scuffle at the Orlando International Airport.
The suit filed by Robert Plouffe this month in federal court charges that
airport officers Marvin J. Getz, Tom Reynolds and Cynthia Robinson falsely
arrested him Nov. 23, 1986 and violated his constitutional right to express his
According to Plouffe, he had just given some Hare Krishna literature to a
casually dressed man he believed was a tourist.
Suddenly the man began ripping pages from a hardback copy of "Srimad
Bhagavatam," a book of Hindu religious verse that Plouffe said is as sacred to
Krishnas as the Bible is to Christians.
Plouffe said he forgot his vow of non-violence, cursed and grabbed for the
book. Suddenly, Plouffe said, the tourist was arresting him.
Plouffe said he was tackled by two uniformed police officers who shoved his
face onto the terminal floor and cuffed his hands behind his back.
It was then that Plouffe, 28, said he realized the tourist was a
plainclothes policeman. Plouffe was charged with battery.
The airport, which allows members of the International Society for Krishna
Consciousness to hawk literature for donations, suspended Plouffe's soliciting
privileges the day of his arrest. His privileges were not reinstated until the
battery charge was dropped a month later.
Plouffe, who continues to work at the airport, said he considered the
incident "humiliating and embarrassing." His Miami attorney, Heyward Bradman,
said the book-tearing incident was "worse than a smack in the face. If he (the
officer) wanted to provoke, that was the easier way to do it."
Orlando Police Chief Fred Walsh and two of the officers named in the suit
have refused to discuss the incident. Robinson, who left the department last
month, could not be reached for comment.
Getz stated in his incident report that he assumed Plouffe was giving him
"After paging through it and deciding it was useless, I ripped some pages,"
Plouffe became very angry, called Getz a name and lunged at him, the officer
said. Getz said one of Plouffe's hands hit him on the shoulder.
Reynolds reported that he used a "head hold or carotid restraint" to subdue
Plouffe denied that he hit or touched Getz when he grabbed for the book and
says he should never have been arrested.
"It's a horrible act to do something like that," Plouffe said. "I thought he
was a tourist."
Those familiar with the suit say the key issue almost certainly will be
whether or not the book Getz tore was intended as a gift.
"A gift is a gift," said Orlando City Attorney Bob Hamilton. "I can do with
it as I see fit."
Plouffe also accused Getz of blaspheming his religion.
"I don't consider this scripture anyway, and myself, I'm a Christian,"
Plouffe said Getz told him as he was being escorted to the airport police
The next day, records show, Plouffe went to the Orlando Police Department to
file a complaint against Getz.
Plouffe said the police would not accept his written complaint and escorted
him into a hall and threatened to arrest him for trespassing if he didn't
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank