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Man arrested at county building plans to sue

December 30, 1997

Man arrested at county building plans to sue


Staff Writer

Lawrence H. Freeman, the protester arrested Dec. 23 while he was sitting on a bench in front of the Washington County Administration Building, said he plans to sue for violation of his civil rights.

Freeman said in an interview that he has asked the American Civil Liberties Union for representation.

ACLU lawyer Dwight Sullivan said the organization hadn't made a final decision on whether to take Freeman's case.

"I think it's quite likely that we will represent him," he said.

Sullivan said the ACLU was interested because Freeman appeared to be arrested for exercising his First Amendment rights.

Freeman said he won't know who would be named in the suit until he talks to a lawyer.

At the time he was arrested, Freeman was holding a sign that said: "Washington County Commissioners won't hire black men." Freeman was frisked, handcuffed and charged with trespassing at a public agency during business hours.


In charging documents, police said Freeman failed to leave when asked, had "no apparent lawful business to pursue," and was "acting in a manner disruptive of and disturbing to the conduct of normal business."

The arrest wasn't the first time Freeman, 53, has had a run-in with the law, and Freeman says he hasn't always been a model citizen.

"I've got nothing to hide," Freeman said. "I tell you I'm no angel. All the things I did then have nothing to do with them not hiring blacks now."

Freeman was charged with trespassing at a public agency on Jan. 11, 1995, according to court records.

In that case, he was in the parking lot at the Washington County Detention Center and demanded to be locked up, according to the charging documents.

"I advised Mr. Freeman to leave the premises. He replied, 'NO...LOCK ME UP!'" wrote Cpl. Clinton Rowland.

That charge was placed on the inactive court docket.

On March 22, 1992, Freeman was charged with disorderly conduct and disobeying police. He was found guilty but wasn't given a jail term, according to District Court records.

Freeman said that when he was 21, he was charged in Waynesboro, Pa., with assault with intent to do bodily harm. He said three young white men came up to him and called him a racist name and he broke the jaw of one.

Freeman also has had other legal problems. He was sued in October by wife Stephanie Denise Freeman. The suit alleges he hadn't divorced his first wife, Kay Elizabeth Freeman, before marrying Stephanie, and asks that their marriage be annulled.

Freeman said his first wife had said she had obtained a divorce in Guam. "All I received was an oral report from her that she was divorced," he said.

"She had to be divorced because she got married and had a baby," he said.

The same suit alleges that divorce proceedings had begun but were never completed.

Freeman has had civil judgments listed against him in Washington County District Court and Washington County Circuit Court for amounts ranging from $115 to $3,524. Most of those judgments, which include hospital and dentist bills, were paid off.

Freeman said he works part time driving trucks for Jerr-Dan in Greencastle, Pa. He said he had been working for them full time as a painter, but had to stop because the paint bothered his sinuses.

Freeman worked for the county as a part-time bus driver from 1983 to 1985.

He said he resigned on the suggestion of a supervisor after getting into a verbal altercation with another worker.

"To be honest with you I wasn't a very good person," said Freeman, who said he was going through marital problems at the time.

Freeman also said the bus he was driving was fired at three different times, once through the driver's side window.

Freeman said he's also worked for M.P. Moller Organ Co. and Alphin Aircraft.

The record

Freeman said he will continue fighting for more minority hiring, not only for himself, but for others.

"They're telling me and other black men that we aren't qualified to work for them," Freeman said.

"They can say that they are not doing this, that they are not practicing racism, but I keep looking at the record," Freeman said.

"We've got to go on until we get results. I'm not saying we have to turn the whole Washington County Roads Department black, but it would be nice to see one or two blacks out there," he said.

The Roads Department has no black workers, according to Human Resources Director Alan Davis.

Davis has said the county needs to work to hire and retain qualified minorities, especially in professional positions and in the Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Charles F. Mades handles the hiring at the Sheriff's Department, which has one minority, a Hispanic, in the 200-member work force.

County Attorney Richard Douglas said Tuesday that the county has 22 minority workers, or 3.5 percent of the 631 county employees. Fourteen of the minority workers are black.

About 3.5 percent of Washington County residents are minorities.

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