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LAWSUIT: Vermont man sues after being arrested for flipping off police

Bombard arrest

Police cruiser dash cam footage of Gregory Bombard's arrest.

  • A Vermont man was arrested on trumped-up charges after a state trooper took offense to his use of profanity and a middle finger during an illegal traffic stop.
  • The First Amendment squarely protects Americans’ right to criticize law enforcement, even in ways that individual officers find profane or insulting.
  • Now FIRE has joined Bombard’s legal team — and is releasing for the first time video showing his arrest was illegal retaliation for protected speech.

MONTPELIER, Vt., Dec. 18, 2023 — Gregory Bombard was driving through his hometown of St. Albans, Vermont, enjoying a coffee and a cigarette. He committed no crime — not even a minor traffic violation.

Twenty minutes later, he was sitting in a jail cell.

Now the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, in collaboration with the ACLU of Vermont, is asking the Superior Court of Vermont to recognize Bombard’s First Amendment rights were violated in February 2018 when he was interrogated, arrested, and cited by a state trooper. 

Bombard’s alleged crime? Cursing at a cop and giving him the finger during a traffic stop — conduct that is squarely protected by the First Amendment.

The police video of the illegal stop shows that Vermont State Trooper Jay Riggen abused his power by retaliating against Bombard for flipping him the bird. The First Amendment protects the right to engage in rude or offensive speech — including the middle finger — especially when directed at government authorities.

“I respect the police and other first responders,” said Bombard. “But I respect officers who first respect the Constitution. Those who betray their oath have to be held accountable.” 


Bombard was first pulled over when Riggen thought he saw Bombard give him the finger as they drove past each other. As it happened, Riggen was mistaken and Bombard had not made the gesture. But even if he had, it would have been unconstitutional for Riggen to stop a civilian for nothing more than an insult.

“Police are charged with protecting the public, not their own bruised egos,” said FIRE senior attorney Jay Diaz. “It’s obvious from the footage that the officer wasn’t concerned about Greg’s safety. He just wanted to punish him for mouthing off.”

As a state trooper with a sworn duty to understand and protect the constitutional rights of the public, Riggen should have known this. But even if he somehow forgot basic civics, Bombard reminded him multiple times during the stop. “If someone flipped you off, what is the citation? What’s the crime?” Bombard asked, later adding, “​​That would be considered freedom of expression.”


The stop ended only after Bombard suggested that he would file a complaint. As Bombard pulled out, he really did give a good old-fashioned one-finger salute, and he did say “asshole” and “fuck you.”

“Bombard is no activist, and doesn’t go around flipping off cops,” said Diaz. “He just reacted to being pulled over for no good reason.”

An angry Riggen responded by immediately pulling over Bombard a second time and arresting him for “disorderly conduct.” Bombard was handcuffed, searched, thrown in the back of a police car, imprisoned in a station holding cell, and forced to have his fingerprints and mugshot taken, which were later distributed to Vermont media outlets. As a final indignity, Riggen told Bombard his car would be towed because Bombard had pulled over into a “no parking” zone, even though he did so because the trooper had ordered him to stop there.

In support of the bogus charge, Riggen dubiously claimed that “a hundred people” heard Bombard’s remark. The dashcam video clearly shows that the wintry street in St. Albans (population: 6,942) was practically deserted and that Bombard’s remark wasn’t even loud enough to be picked up by Riggen’s body mic.

The court later dismissed the charges against Bombard, but only after he incurred nearly a year of legal fees and expenses. 

In 2021, aided by the ACLU of Vermont, Bombard filed a lawsuit against Riggen and the state for violating his First Amendment and Vermont constitutional rights. FIRE joined the case after Diaz joined the organization last year from the ACLU of Vermont, where he served as general counsel. 

“Traffic stops are the most common way that people interact with law enforcement,” said ACLU of Vermont staff attorney Hillary Rich. “To protect the safety and personal liberties of all Vermonters, the state needs to do more to prevent unnecessary and unjustified police interactions like the one Mr. Bombard experienced.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and sustaining the individual rights of all Americans to free speech and free thought — the most essential qualities of liberty. FIRE educates Americans about the importance of these inalienable rights, promotes a culture of respect for these rights, and provides the means to preserve them.


Alex Griswold, Communications Campaign Manager, FIRE: 215-717-3473;

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