Judge Throws Out Two Of Three Claims In Defamation Lawsuit
6:22 AM, May 15, 2001
A former detective assigned to the JonBen?t Ramsey homicide was dealt a legal blow Monday when a U.S. district judge tossed out two of her three claims in a defamation lawsuit against the Boulder Police Department.
In a hearing conducted by telephone Monday, U.S. District Judge William Downes
rejected two claims by Linda Arndt (pictured, left). The claims were that the
police department painted her in a false light and violated her
First Amendment rights under the Colorado Constitution.
Downes said that the federal claim under the First Amendment made the
state claim redundant.
He left in place Arndt's claim that her First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution were violated by a department policy preventing officers from talking to the news media about the Ramsey case.
Arndt alleges that former Boulder Police Chief Tom Koby placed a gag
order on the department, prohibiting all officers from speaking
publicly about the investigation into 6-year-old JonBenet's death.
"His rulings narrow the issues considerably," said attorney
Ted Halaby, who represents Koby and the police department.
"Now, the issue comes down to whether the interests of the
department in limiting the speech of its detectives to preserve the
integrity of the investigation outweigh the interests of Detective
Arndt in defending her personal reputation in the media," Halaby
Arndt was the first detective to arrive at the Ramsey house on
Dec. 26, 1996, when John and Patsy Ramsey reported their daughter
was missing. Patsy Ramsey reported finding a ransom note demanding
$118,000 for the girl's return.
Arndt later was blamed for allowing the family and friends to
contaminate the crime scene. She also was blamed for allowing John
Ramsey, who found his daughter's body in the basement, to carry the
body up to the living room.
JonBenet was beaten and strangled. Her parents blame an
intruder, but authorities say the Ramseys, who moved to the Atlanta
area, remain under suspicion.
Arndt was pulled off the case in May 1997. Koby refused to let
her speak publicly in her own defense and prohibited any officer
from speaking about the case.
She resigned in April 1999 after suing Koby and the department,
claiming her First Amendment rights were violated.
The two sides are scheduled to meet for arbitration on May 24.
Should they fail to reach a settlement, the case will go to trial
on May 29.
Monday's hearing was conducted by speakerphone, and Judge Downes' declined a request to allow the news media to listen to the hearing.