Troopers cleared in `hon' detention

Man said his remark led to arrest

jurors disagree

February 08, 2003|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County jury has cleared two state troopers of wrongdoing in what has become known as the "hon' arrest" -- a 1999 traffic stop in which an Arbutus man said he was detained because he used a Baltimore term of endearment when addressing a female officer.

"Troopers Vindicated In Alleged `Hon' Arrest," the Maryland State Police announced in a news release issued after Thursday night's verdict, in which the jury rejected Frank J. Iula Jr.'s $500,000 lawsuit against the police. "The plaintiff was arrested on legitimate criminal charges and not because he had called the trooper `hon,' " it said.

But Iula, a computer engineer, said yesterday he will keep working to make sure "the truth comes out."

"It's not over," he said.

The lawsuit against two state troopers and the Maryland State Police stemmed from an altercation Iula, 45, had with a trooper on his drive to Ocean City with his three children.

Iula was on U.S. 50 in Berlin the morning of Aug. 22, 1999, when Tfc. Kelly Austin clocked him going 78 mph in a 55-mph zone and stopped him for speeding, according to court papers.

The trooper asked for his license, but started to walk back to her patrol car before Iula could give it to her, according to court papers. Iula got out of his Chevy Malibu -- he said he did so to give her his license -- and she shouted at him to get back in, court papers say.

That started a disagreement. Iula said he called the 32-year-old trooper "Hon," which he said prompted her to handcuff him while she checked his registration. He said he inadvertently called her "Hon" again a few minutes later, which he said made her livid.

The word "hon," the lawsuit stated, "is common parlance in Baltimore County."

But Austin and two witnesses watching from across the road had a different story. They said that Iula was yelling at the trooper, and that he became "hostile and threatening," according to court papers. Austin noted that, at 180 pounds, Iula was "a lot bigger" than her.

"She asked him several times to get back in his car, for his safety, the safety of his three children and for her safety," the state police reported. "When the man continually refused the lawful orders of a police officer, he was placed under arrest."

Austin took Iula to the Berlin barracks, where he was held for six hours while his young children waited in the lobby. He was charged with failing to obey a lawful command, hindering and obstructing a police officer and speeding -- charges the Worcester County's state's attorney's office dropped a month later.

Iula filed the lawsuit against the state police last year, asking $500,000 claiming state constitutional violations and unspecified damages on claims of defamation, malicious prosecution, conspiracy, excessive force, false imprisonment, false arrest, assault and battery.

Yesterday, Iula said he was disappointed and shocked by the verdict, but that he wasn't finished fighting.

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