Liability Finding Denied in Pennsylvania Festival Raid Suit

October 23, 2012

A federal judge has denied an attorney’s bid for a liability finding in a civil suit over the arrest of nearly two dozen people on drug charges at an outdoor music festival in western Pennsylvania three years ago.

The (Uniontown) Herald Standard says attorney Greg Koerner, who represents the Church of Universal Love and Music, had wanted the judge to enter an order concluding that Fayette County was liable for executing what the judge found to be an invalid search warrant during the August 2009 raid on the Bullskin Township property.

But U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose denied the request Friday, noting that she had declined to assign such liability in her earlier ruling and Koerner had given her no reason to reconsider that decision.

The judge also declined to declare that state forfeiture of the church property was invalid, saying she didn’t believe she had the authority to do so. And the judge also gave county attorney Marie Jones more time to seek dismissal of counts of the suit after she expressed concern that the church complaint was unclear and she may have missed some areas that could be challenged.

Fayette County authorities used a search warrant to raid the “Funk Fest” event held by the Church of Universal Love and Music, arresting 23 people on various drug charges and also seizing marijuana, LSD and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The church, its founder and others sued the county and several law enforcement officers following the arrests. Ambrose ruled last summer that the warrant was unconstitutional because it wasn’t supported by probable cause.

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