RICHMOND, Va. — Attorneys for The Rutherford Institute have filed a civil rights lawsuit against law enforcement and other government officials on behalf of Marine veteran Brandon Raub. Last August, he was arrested by a swarm of FBI, Secret Service agents and local police and forcibly detained in a psychiatric ward for a week because of controversial song lyrics and political views posted on his Facebook page. The complaint, filed in federal court in Richmond, alleges that Raub’s seizure and detention were the result of a federal government program code-named “Operation Vigilant Eagle” that involves the systematic surveillance of military veterans who express views critical of the government. Institute attorneys allege that the attempt to label Raub as “mentally ill” and his involuntary commitment was a pretext designed to silence Raub’s speech critical of the government and that the defendants violated Raub’s rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.
Since coming to Raub’s defense, The Rutherford Institute has been contacted by military veterans across the country recounting similar incidents. In filing a civil suit against government officials, Rutherford Institute attorneys plan to take issue with the manner in which Virginia’s civil commitment statutes are being used to silence individuals engaged in lawfully exercising their free speech rights.
“Brandon Raub’s case exposed the seedy underbelly of a governmental system that is targeting military veterans for expressing their discontent over America’s rapid transition to a police state,” said John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute. “Brandon Raub is not the first veteran to be targeted for speaking out against the government. Hopefully, by holding officials accountable, we can ensure that Brandon is the last to suffer in this way.”
On Aug.16, 2012, Chesterfield police, Secret Service and FBI agents arrived at Brandon Raub’s home, asking to speak with him about his Facebook posts. Like many Facebook users, Raub, a Marine who has served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, uses his Facebook page to post song lyrics and air his political opinions. Without providing any explanation, levying any charges against Raub or reading him his rights, law enforcement officials handcuffed Raub and transported him to police headquarters, then to John Randolph Medical Center, where he was held against his will. In a hearing on Aug. 20, government officials pointed to Raub’s Facebook posts as the reason for his incarceration. While Raub stated that the Facebook posts were being read out of context, a Special Justice ordered Raub be held up to 30 more days for psychological evaluation and treatment.
In coming to Raub’s aid, Institute attorneys challenged the government’s actions as procedurally improper, legally unjustified, and in violation of Raub’s First Amendment rights. On Aug. 23, Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett ordered Raub’s immediate release, stating that the government’s case was “so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.” In asking the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to acknowledge the harm done to Raub and to rectify the violation of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, Institute attorneys are requesting that Raub be awarded damages for the harm caused by the deprivation of his constitutional rights. Affiliate attorneys Anthony Troy of Eckert Seamens and William H. Hurd and Stephen C. Piepgrass of Troutman Sanders LLP in Richmond are assisting The Rutherford Institute in bringing the lawsuit.