ALLENTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A wandering minstrel lost his federal lawsuit claiming a Pennsylvania police officer used too much force in taking him to the ground when he reportedly sang loudly enough to bother people dining outside.
A federal court jury Thursday ruled Allentown Officer Robert Busch did nothing wrong when he accosted 63-year-old James Ochse in August 2015.
Ochse's attorney, Richard Orloski, argued police overreacted after Ochse, covered in some kind of liquid, approached some outdoor diners at a steakhouse near PPL Center, a downtown hockey and entertainment arena, and began loudly singing The Beach Boys' hit "Barbara Ann."
Ochse contends he had an agreement with the city that he could sing after 5 p.m. to address previous complaints about his singing. Police Chief Glen Dorney said he'd never met Ochse before the incident and that there was no such "pact" in effect.
"I am glad that the jury rather quickly and easily saw it that way and did not in any manner damage the reputation of a fine officer," Dorney said of the verdict.
Cellphone video taken by one restaurant patron showed Ochse shouting and waving his finger in Busch's face, claiming he had permission to sing. Busch testified he was investigating another matter at a different restaurant nearby when another officer, off-duty and dining at the steakhouse with his wife, reported Ochse was disturbing the patrons.
Busch grabbed Ochse's elbow as he tried to spin away, and the officer took him to the ground. Busch said he wasn't finished investigating the incident and was merely trying to keep Ochse there until he was finished; Ochse's attorney argued that was unnecessary, as was taking his client to the ground.
"They wanted more than his departure" from the restaurant area, Orloski said. "They wanted to embarrass him, humiliate him and cause him pain, and that's what they did."