[Hpn] Patriot Act vs. homeless
William Charles Tinker
Fri, 1 Jul 2005 06:50:32 -0400
Patriot Act vs. homeless
By Wayne Parry
The Associated Press
July 1, 2005
NEWARK, N.J. -- The USA Patriot Act, in the name of fighting terrorism,
allows the government to find out which books and Internet sites a person
has seen. It lets investigators secretly search homes and monitor phone
calls and e-mail.
Now, officials in the wealthy New York suburb of Summit are using the law
to justify forcing homeless people to leave a train station -- an action
that sparked a $5 million federal lawsuit by a homeless man.
Richard Kreimer, who filed the lawsuit in March after being kicked out of
the train station, said the Patriot Act defense makes no sense.
"Unless they've been smoking those funny cigarettes, I can't see how my
civil lawsuit has anything to do with the Patriot Act," said Kreimer, 55,
who is acting as his own attorney.
But Summit officials argue they are protected by a provision regarding
"attacks and other violence against mass-transportation systems."
Town attorney Harry Yospin, who did not return calls seeking comment, has
used the law as one of more than a dozen defenses in the case.
Edward Barocas, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New
Jersey, said the defense is weak: "Nothing in the Patriot Act lets them kick
homeless people out of train stations."
The Justice Department also criticized Summit's use of the law.
"That represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Patriot Act
is," spokesman Kevin Madden said Wednesday. "The Patriot Act is a
law-enforcement tool to identify and track terrorists and stop them from
further attacks on America. To apply it to this case is, shall we say, an
overreaching application of the law."
Kreimer garnered national attention in 1991 after suing Morristown, the
Morris Township public library and the police department over his treatment
there. The library threw him out at least five times, claiming his body odor
and the way he looked at library patrons offended them.
A federal judge ruled the library's rules on hygiene were
unconstitutional -- a decision that was overturned, but not before Kreimer
had been paid. Kreimer has said he spent the settlement on lawyers, living
expenses and medical bills.
In the latest case, Kreimer is seeking at least $5 million in damages from
the city of Summit, NJ Transit, nine police officers and several others,
claiming he and other homeless people have been unlawfully thrown out of
train stations since August.
The state attorney general's office, on behalf of NJ Transit, has called
the lawsuit frivolous and a sham but did not cite the Patriot Act.
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