Missouri resident sues Planned Parenthood over alleged false allegations of a bomb threat

By Chandra Lye | Sep 22, 2018

ST. LOUIS – A Missouri resident has sued the St. Louis Planned Parenthood for defamation and other claims, alleging an employee deliberately lied about a bomb threat. 

John Ryan sued Casey Spiegel and Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region after he says he was wrongly accused by Spiegel of claiming there were bombs planted at the abortion clinic. 

“Mr. Ryan was arrested, searched, handcuffed and transported in a police vehicle, charged with a felony connected to making a bomb threat, held for 36 hours, and required to post bond to be released from jail. His bond conditions prohibited him from protesting and sidewalk counseling outside the Planned Parenthood clinic— activities vitally important to Mr. Ryan and religiously motivated—until he was eventually vindicated by a jury of his peers 18 months later,” the filing stated.

In the filing, Ryan notes that there were four witnesses who heard the exchange and validate he never made any bomb threats. He also passed a polygraph test about the encounter. The plaintiff also questions why Spiegel walked calming past him, as seen in a video of their interaction, and why there were no emergency actions taken such as evacuating the building. 

“Planned Parenthood itself later voluntarily dismissed a lawsuit seeking extension of a restraining order because it would have required an adversarial evidentiary hearing,” according to the lawsuit.

He is seeking “recompense for the deprivation of his federal constitutional rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and state-law rights to be free and unharmed by malicious prosecution, defamation, and civil conspiracy.”

Although the organization obtained a temporary restraining order, it dismissed the lawsuit on March 7, 2017, “just before it would have had to present evidence at an adversarial evidentiary hearing to justify converting the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction.”

The Circuit Attorney’s Office’s filed a No True Bill, which stated there was not enough evidence to persist with a trial.

“Despite the No True Bill, the videos, the witnesses, the polygraph examination, and the voluntary dismissal of Planned Parenthood’s restraining order lawsuit in order to avoid an adversarial evidentiary hearing, the Circuit Attorney’s Office refiled criminal charges against Mr. Ryan, this time charging him with the misdemeanor of making a terroristic threat,” according to the court filing.

A jury trial was held in May, and jurors quickly returned a not guilty verdict.

In his filing, Ryan made First Amendment claims against the defendants that include a violation of his Freedom of Speech and Expressive Association, as well as Free Exercise of Religion. He has also filed Fourth Amendment claims of Unreasonable Searches and Seizures and other federal claims including Malicious Prosecution, Defamation, and Civil Conspiracy. 

The lawsuit was filed on Sept. 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

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