PENNSYLVANIA — A teen rapper from Beaver County received a $60,000 settlement almost two years after he was handcuffed and arrested at school for lyrics he had posted on the Internet.
Anthony Latour, then 13 years old, was arrested by police from two different townships in April 2005 after the school received complaints of his lyrical postings from parents of other students. Latour spent a weekend in the Allencrest Juvenile Detention Center after his arrest and later spent several weeks under house arrest following an expulsion in May 2005, according to his attorney, Francis Moore. Moore said there was not only a conflict with the school, but with the police’s handling of the case.
Moore said the authorities interpreted the lyrics to contain literal threats of concern. According to court documents, some of the songs in question were titled “Massacre” and “Murder, He Wrote,” and included lyrics like, “You better pray or get away I set it straight with melodays/ and after that I shatter wackness put ya matter in a casket.”
Moore said he feels that much of this conflict could have been resolved had the school spoken with Latour and his family prior to the arrest. He said that no one attempted to investigate the situation before taking action and that the genre in which the lyrics were written was not taken into consideration.
“That’s the critical problem with their actions; it was not conducted in an end result manner,” Moore said. “For a police officer to look at a song, and to extrapolate from the song criminal intent to harm someone, is just not logical.”
Latour received the $60,000 settlement in his case against the two police departments that arrested him at school, Moore said. The suit, filed by his parents, claimed false arrest and violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania also filed a lawsuit against the school district in August 2005 requesting a preliminary injunction to revoke Latour’s expulsion. A federal judge ordered him back to school that same month, according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article. A press release from the ACLU stated that the school district agreed to pay Latour $90,000 to settle that lawsuit. The school also agreed to amend its policy in regards to student speech and expulsion.
“I think the family is very glad to be done with this case, “ Moore said. “It was a very good outcome and it sends a message to police that they need to have probable cause before they lock up a 13-year-old boy.”
By Erica Hudock, SPLC staff writer