NYC judge tosses suit over ‘obscene' racist rant citing free speech

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A Manhattan judge on Monday tossed a lawsuit brought by an Asian NYPD detective against a man who spewed racist slurs at him — saying while the tirade was “obscene,” it counts as constitutionally protected free speech.

Det. Vincent Cheung brought the complaint, then believed to be the first of its kind, against Terrell Harper, who was caught in a 10-minute video calling Cheung a “goddamn cat eater” and asking if he was “going to Judo chop him.”

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“The video speaks volume,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shlomo Hagler said during a virtual hearing Monday of the March 11, 2021 incident. “The obscenities, the diatribes, the hateful and obscene words were said, there is no doubt to that.”

“Such conduct should be condemned and has no place in a civil society,” Hagler continued.

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But in dismissing Cheung’s suit, the jurist acknowledged that the US Supreme Court has held that even hate speech is free speech protected under the First Amendment.

Asian-American, detectives, hate speech, lawsuits, manhattan supreme court, nypd, police officers, racism

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A Manhattan judge dismissed a lawsuit from NYPD Detective Vincent Cheung against a man who went on a racist tirade against him.

Matthew McDermott

Courts “have upheld the law that the First Amendment is sacrosanct and the ability to protest is something that the legislature wishes to encourage rather than having the right to free speech curtailed,” Hagler said.

Hagler said he believes that lawmakers should make a carve-out in the First Amendment to bar hate speech and encouraged Cheung, a 16-year NYPD veteran, and his lawyers to take the issue up with the legislature.

“I do believe the legislation should go back and review whether they should protect racist and hateful speech as part of the civil rights law,” the judge said.

Asian-American, detectives, hate speech, lawsuits, manhattan supreme court, nypd, police officers, racism

Terrell Harper was caught ranting at Cheung at a Black Lives Matter rally in Manhattan on March 11, 2021.

DEA

Earlier in the hearing, Harper’s lawyer Remy Green acknowledged that Harper used “some extraordinarily offensive language.”

“Hate speech is free speech,” Green added later. “The Supreme Court has said it over and over again.”

Cheung’s lawyer James Moschella pleaded with the judge to rule against the legal precedent.

“Maybe it’s time to revisit some of that precedent at a time of unprecedented hate crimes against the Asian community following the pandemic,” Moschella said. “Hate begets hate. Hate speech spawns violence, it’s incontrovertible.”

Asian-American, detectives, hate speech, lawsuits, manhattan supreme court, nypd, police officers, racism

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Shlomo Hagler condemned Harper’s language, but said that it was protected under the First Amendment.

Stephen Yang

After the hearing, Moschella told The Post that he is disappointed and will likely file an appeal.

“We are going need to take some time to digest the court’s decision but in all likelihood we will be appealing,” Moschella said. “We are disappointed and we respectfully disagree with the court’s decision.”

Harper made headlines again last month when he allegedly posted a video on his Instagram story before a second slain officer’s funeral saying, “I’m looking for the next cop funeral. I’m gonna f—k it up, bro.”

The story appeared to feature a photo of officers lined up outside of the funeral for Det. Jason Rivera and was posted just days before services for Officer Wilbert Mora took place. The pair of officers were shot during a domestic violence call in the Bronx on Jan. 21 and died days later.

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