Robert Groden, right, and his colleague Marshal Evans sit near the infamous stockade fence at the Dealey Plaza “grassy knoll” back in 2010, shortly after his arrest
On most days Robert Groden, the staff photographic consultant to the House Select Committee on Assassinations and a consultant on Oliver Stone’s JFK, can be found at his usual perch in Dealey Plaza selling magazines and books that detail, often in grisly detail, the killing of John Kennedy on Elm Street. He’s been there for decades, most of that time worried that today would be another day he’d be cited for trespassing by Dallas police. His concerns were justified: Groden has been cited more than 80 times for selling his wares, and, occasionally, even arrested.
Twice in the past four years judges have told the city to lay off Groden, that he’s not doing anything wrong, and there are no more criminal cases pending against Groden. But there remains one civil matter that needs to be dispensed with: In June 2010, shortly after he’d been arrested by two Dallas police officers, Groden sued the city in federal court, claiming his constitutional rights had been violated. That suit was put on hold while the criminal matter was resolved.
A trial has been set for June 9. It remains to be seen whether it will kick off on time; there’s yet to be a pre-trial hearing, and Groden’s attorney says pending criminal cases could knock it off the docket. But on Wednesday the Dallas City Council will be briefed about the case behind closed doors. And last week several court documents were filed by Groden’s attorney and the Dallas City Attorney’s Office, on behalf of Sergeant Frank Gorka, that lay out the details of the case, including who both sides are planning on call as witnesses and why.
The documents, filed below, are as close to a sneak peek as you can get without a time machine taking you a few weeks into the future.
“Robert is just anxious to have his day in court,” says Brad Kizzia, his attorney.
As far as Gorka’s concerned, Groden’s arrest in June 2010 was completely justified: “Gorka will testify that all of his actions regarding Groden were performed within and pursuant to the scope of his duties as a police officer for the DPD, which duties generally include the investigation, apprehension, and arrest of persons who have violated Texas laws. Gorka will testify that at all times relevant to his actions, he was acting within a reasonable belief that his actions were proper and legal and that his conduct did not violate any clearly established statutory or constitutional right of which a reasonable person would have known. Gorka will testify that he believed that probable cause existed to arrest Groden.”
Groden, on the other hand, will counter that he was the victim of an “unconstitutional ‘crackdown’ policy that the City of Dallas implemented prior to Plaintiff’s unlawful arrest and incarceration.” And he will reiterate his contention that the city was acting on behalf of the Sixth Floor Museum, which museum officials have long denied. Guess we’ll find out: Nicola Longford, the museum’s executive director, is on Groden’s witness list.
Kizzia says Groden and the city discussed a possible settlement last year, but court-ordered mediation “did not go very far in terms of negotiating an amicable resolution,” he says. It’s unclear what the city attorney will tell the council on Wednesday. But Kizzia is hopeful a relatively new city attorney (Warren Ernst) is able to convince them to settle for an undisclosed amount.
“I hope so, because I think the city should do the right thing and resolve the case,” says Kizzia. “The criminal courts have already spoken: What they did was illegal. Are they responsible for the false arrests and the wrongful prosecution? He should get some compensation for his having been wrongfully incarcerated and harassed — illegally, as the courts have said. That’s basically it. Some vindication. He’s gotten vindication at the criminal courts, but the city had said from day one it didn’t do anything wrong. Everyone knows they did.”