Judge Tosses Suit Filed by High Schooler Arrested Over Clock

May 19, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) – A black Muslim teenager who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school failed to state a valid claim of racial discrimination against a Dallas-area school district, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Dubbed “clock boy” by the press, Ahmed Mohamed made headlines in 2015 when he was arrested at MacArthur High School in Irving after bringing a circuit board and power supply that he wired to a digital display inside of a metal pencil case. A teacher purportedly thought it looked like a bomb.

His father, Mohamed Alhassan Mohamed, sued school principal Daniel Cummings, the Irving Independent School District and the city of Irving in August 2016, claiming his son’s civil rights were violated.

The lawsuit claims Mohamed was interrogated by police and school officials for 90 minutes, was threatened with expulsion if he did not write a statement, and that his requests for his parents were denied.

It also claims police forcefully pulled him out of his chair and marched him in front of the school in handcuffs.

A photograph of a bewildered Mohamed being led away in handcuffs went viral on social media, with President Barack Obama tweeting him an invitation to the White House in response.

U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay granted the city and school districts’ motions to dismiss, concluding the lawsuit does not allege facts for him to “reasonably infer” that any school district employee intentionally discriminated against Mohamed based on his race or religion in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights.

“Plaintiff does not alleged at the IISD treated A.M. differently because of his race or religion than other students involved in similar disciplinary situations,” the 37-page opinion states. “Absent allegations of intentional discrimination, or allegations from which the court can reasonably infer intentional discrimination, plaintiff fails to allege an equal protection violation against the IISD.”

However, Lindsay cited U.S. Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit precedent in allowing Mohamed’s father to refile the lawsuit by June 1, giving him a chance to amend his claims that are “factually deficient.”

The judge was not persuaded that Mohamed was arrested without probable cause in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, writing the lawsuit failed to “identify any official policy” that caused the alleged violation.

He also declined the plaintiff’s request to ignore Fifth Circuit precedent and instead rule that Mohamed’s Fifth Amendment rights were violated when police allegedly refused his request to speak to his parents or give him a Miranda warning.

“The court is bound by the law of the Fifth Circuit and declines Plaintiff’s invitation to ignore binding precedent and look to case decisions from other circuit courts,” the opinion states. “Here, plaintiff has pleaded that all charges against A.M. arising from the arrest were dropped. Plaintiff does not allege that any information allegedly improperly obtained from A.M. were ever used against him in a criminal trial or in pretrial proceedings.”

Mohamed was released to his parents hours later and charges were dropped, but he remained suspended from school for three days.

He never returned to MacArthur High School – he later accepted a full scholarship to study in Qatar thanks to the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development.

Judge Lindsay said the lawsuit advances only a “subjective belief” that Cummings’ actions were motivated by Mohamed’s race. He said even if the lawsuit had adequately alleged intentional racial discrimination by Cummings or a teacher, the school district “cannot be held vicariously liable under Title IV.”

Irving ISD and Cummings’ attorney, Kathryn Long with Thompson & Horton in Dallas, applauded the ruling as the court understanding the “challenging situations” faced by public school employees.

“Schools and principals must make decisions every day regarding student safety,” she said in a statement Friday afternoon. “The opinion confirms that there was no suggestion of discriminatory intent by any school district employee.”

Mohamed’s attorney, Susan Hutchison with Hutchison & Stoy in Fort Worth, told Courthouse News the reason why they were not sufficiently specific on the facts is due to not being allowed to conduct any discovery.

“It’s a Catch-22 – the defendants file a motion to dismiss on the basis that we haven’t provided enough information, but we are not allowed to conduct discovery to obtain any information,” she said Friday afternoon. “So I will be asking the court to allow limited discovery to address the points raised by the court and leave to add parties.”

From Courthouse News.

Glenn Beck Dismissed From ‘Clock Boy’ Case

January 12, 2017
By David Lee

DALLAS (CN) — A Dallas County judge dismissed Glenn Beck and his network TheBlaze from a defamation lawsuit from the family of “clock boy” Ahmed Mohamed, for statements the conservative commentator made after the controversial arrest.

State District Judge Maricela Moore granted Beck’s motion to dismiss Monday.

She also granted a similar motion by co-defendants the Center for Security Policy and its executive vice president Jim Hanson.

Moore granted the motions under the Texas Citizens’ Participation Act, the state’s Anti-SLAPP law (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).

Mohamed’s father, Ahmed Mohamed, sued the quartet in September last year, along with Fox Television Stations, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, political commentator Ben Ferguson and Ben Shapiro.

Mohamed, a black Muslim immigrant from Sudan, made headlines in September 2015 when he was arrested at MacArthur High School in Irving for bringing a homemade clock to school that appeared as though it could have been a bomb or hoax bomb.

The arrest spurred nationwide comment, and elicited a tweet from President Obama, “Cool clock, Ahmed,” and an invitation to the White House.

The family’s lawsuit objected to statement Beck, Hanson and Van Duyne made about Mohamed’s arrest: Hanson telling Beck that he thought it was a public relations stunt.
“It was a staged event where someone convinced this kid to bring a device that he didn’t build, as you mentioned,” Hanson said, according to the complaint. “It’s a RadioShack clock that he put in a briefcase, and in a briefcase it looks like a bomb … They did that to create the exact scenario that played out. They wanted people to react, and they wanted to portray this kid as an innocent victim. I think he was a pawn of potentially his father.”

The lawsuit claims that Van Duyne said several times that Mohamed was not forthcoming with school or police, and that he brought a “hoax bomb” to school, citing an interview broadcast on Fox affiliate KDFW, in which she allegedly said the family was “non-responsive” to a city request to release records about the incident.

In granting Beck and TheBlaze’s motion, Judge Moore said the statements at issue are “constitutionally protected opinions” that are “not capable of defamatory meaning.”

“Bringing a lawsuit to stifle the free speech of TheBlaze parties collides with the established principle that ‘speech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection,’” the motion stated.

“Plaintiffs’ defamation claims would erode the strong protections derived from those fundamental values, restrict the ‘breathing space’ constitutionally afforded the broadcast at issue, and abandon the First Amendment by placing off limits speech concerning both Ahmed’s arrest and the related issues of potential domestic terrorism and the protection of national security – matters of paramount public concern and importance.”

Beck and TheBlaze’s attorney, Michael Grygiel with Greenberg Traurig in Albany, N.Y., said in a statement that his clients are “pleased at the court’s faithful application of First Amendment principles pursuant to the Texas Citizen Participation Act, the very purpose of which is to protect freedom of speech by mandating the summary dismissal of unmeritorious defamation claims.”

Hanson said shutting down free speech is “anti-constitutional and un-American.”

“This ruling reaffirms our most fundamental liberty – the right to free expression – and punishes Mr. Mohamed and his allies for attempting to suppress ideas they oppose,” Hanson said in a statement Tuesday. “The Center for Security Policy will continue to stand firm against all attempts by individuals and groups like CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] that seek through lawfare and other means to prohibit any criticism of totalitarian Islamist doctrine and to brand as Islamophobes those who point out their efforts.”

Fox and Ferguson were dismissed from the lawsuit in December. Judge Moore granted their motion for Mohamed to pay their $82,000 in attorneys’ fees and expenses, but declined to sanction the plaintiffs.

Mohamed also has a federal civil rights lawsuit pending against the city, school district and principal Daniel Cummings. His attorneys asked the city and Irving Independent School District to pay $15 million before filing suit.

Beck, a well-known right-wing conspiracy theorist, took a sharp turn recently and has publicly apologized for the “harm” he did through his years of well-publicized rants against liberals.

From Courthouse News.

Family of ‘Clock Boy’ Sues Over His Arrest

August 8, 2016
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – The father of infamous “clock boy” Ahmed Mohamed sued a Dallas suburb, its school district and a high school principal over his son’s interrogation and arrest last year for bringing a homemade clock to school that was deemed a “hoax” bomb.
Mohamed Alhassan Mohamed sued the city of Irving, the Irving Independent School District and MacArthur High School principal Daniel Cummings in federal court Monday for alleged violations of his 14-year-old son’s civil rights.
The lawsuit claims Irving ISD has a “long and ugly history of race struggles.”
A black Muslim immigrant from Sudan, Mohamed has said he built the clock at home using a circuit board and power supply that he wired to a digital display inside a metal pencil case.
When he brought the device to school in September to show to a teacher, he was interrogated and arrested. An image of a bewildered Mohamed being led away in handcuffs quickly trended on Twitter with the hashtag #IStandWithMohamed.
Irving officials later determined no crime had been committed and Mohamed was released to his parents. School officials suspended him for three days, but his family withdrew him from school before he returned. Mohamed’s family shortly thereafteraccepted an offer to move to Qatar on scholarship for the rest of his high school and undergraduate studies.
The family has since returned to Irving for the summer break.
Mohamed told reporters Monday that he has “lost a lot of things” due to the arrest.
“I have lost my home, I lost my creativity because before I used to love building things and now I can’t,” he said at a press conference. “There is nothing I can do.
Mohamed said he misses living in Irving, but he cannot stay because of death threats his family continues to receive.
“I get lots of hate, I got support in the beginning, but it is the hate that sticks,” he said. “Some of the hate is so damaging. What did I ever to someone to get death threats?”
The 35-page complaint includes a transcript of a an expletive-filled voicemail message recently left with an Irving Muslim civil rights organization that threatened to behead all Muslims and suggested “another Christian crusade.”
The complaint disputes claims by Irving police that Ahmed was “less than forthcoming” during the 90-minutes long interrogation by police and school officials.
Mohamed’s attorney, Susan Hutchison with Hutchison & Stoy in Fort Worth, denied the clock was ever a “hoax” bomb.
“He told them over and over, ‘this is an alarm clock that I made for my teacher,'” she said. “In spite of the fact that they knew it was not a bomb and that he never threatened anyone or said it was a bomb, they yanked him out of his chair, put him in handcuffs and arrested him.”
The complaint alleges Cummings threatened Mohamed with expulsion if he did not write a statement and that his requests for his parents were denied.
“The officers pulled him forcefully out of his chair, yanked his arms up behind his back so far that his right hand touched the back of his neck, causing a lot of pain,” the complaint states. “They placed Ahmed in handcuffs and marched him out of the front of the school, four officers grabbing onto him, two on each side holding his hands and his arms. They put him into the back of a police car. They took him to the police station and booked him as a criminal, with mug shots and fingerprinting – all still without his parents.”
The Department of Justice announced in December an investigation into possible civil rights violations during the arrest. That investigation is ongoing.
Irving ISD said Monday it “will have no further comment at this time” due to the litigation and that its attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit.
“Irving ISD continues to deny violating the student’s rights and will respond to claims in accordance with court rules,” the district said in a statement.
Mohamed’s previous attorney, Kelly Hollingsworth with Laney & Bollinger in Plainview, demanded $15 million and a written apology from the city and school district in December.
They were given 60 days to comply or face a civil rights lawsuit, according to the demand letter.
Mohamed seeks injunctive and declaratory relief and actual and punitive damages for violations of his son’s civil rights.

From Courthouse News.

Texas School Fights Release of ‘Clock Boy’ Info

February 29, 2016
By David Lee
AUSTIN (CN) – The Texas school district being federally investigated for the arrest of “clock boy” Ahmed Mohamed has sued Texas to stop disclosure of details of the investigation.
The Irving Independent School District sued Texas and Attorney General Ken Paxton in Travis County Court on Feb. 25.
The Dallas-area school district made headlines in September when Ahmed, 14, was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to MacArthur High School. He also was suspended from school for three days.
A photograph of a handcuffed and bewildered Mohamed quickly went viral, with critics calling his arrest Islamophobia and racism run amok. President Obama responded by Tweeting “Cool clock, Ahmed,” and invited the boy to the White House.
Irving police had said the device “could reasonably be mistaken as a device” had it been left in a bathroom or under a car.
Ahmed was not charged and was released to his family, who have since demanded $15 million for civil rights violations, and an apology from city and school district officials. In October, the family decided to move to Qatar, to accept a Qatari government scholarship and get away from the controversy in Texas. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed in December that the federal government was investigating Ahmed’s arrest.
In the latest lawsuit, Irving ISD said it received a public information request in November for a copy of the Justice Department’s inquiry letter.
The school district asked Paxton for an opinion on whether the letter is subject to disclosure. Irving ISD claims the information is exempt from disclosure because it contains information on an ongoing law enforcement proceeding and information about a student protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.
Paxton concluded in a Feb. 11 letter that the information must be disclosed, resulting in the lawsuit.
Irving ISD said Paxton’s use of the anticipation-of-litigation exception is inconsistent with previous attorney general rulings and “is simply contrary to the common law understanding of anticipation of litigation.”
“The attorney general’s interpretation and application of the exception was overly narrow, and his analysis was incorrect and contrary to established law,” the 5-page complaint states.
The school district seeks declaratory judgment and a permanent injunction.
It is represented by Lisa A. Brown with Thompson Horton in Houston.

From Courthouse News.

Feds Investigate Arrest of Boy Clockmaker

December 7, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch confirmed a federal investigation into how Texas police handled the widely criticized arrest of a Muslim teenager who brought a homemade clock to school.
Lynch acknowledged the investigation Thursday night at the annual Muslim Advocates dinner in Alexandria, Va., when the group’s president Farhana Kher asked what the Justice Department was doing to protect Muslims from hate crimes.
“We have, as you may know, opened an investigation into the case of the young man in Irving, Texas,” Lynch said. “So we will see where that investigation goes.”
A photograph of a handcuffed and bewildered Ahmed Mohamed went viral in September after he brought the clock to MacArthur High School to show his engineering teacher. Critics called his arrest Islamophobia and racism run amok.
President Obama quickly responded with a tweet that began, “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?”
He did so a month later, and met the president with other high school science students.
Mohamed’s family then withdrew him from his Texas school and accepted an offer to move to Qatar on a scholarship for the rest of his high school and undergraduate studies.
In November, the family asked the city and school district for a written apology and $15 million in damages .
Their attorney Kelly Hollingsworth, with Laney & Bollinger in Plainview, said Mohamed never threatened or harmed anyone, nor did he intend to.
“The only one who was hurt that day was Ahmed, and the damages he suffered were not because of oversight or incompetence,” Hollingsworth wrote to the city and school district. “The school and city officials involved knew what they needed to do to protect Ahmed’s rights. They just decided not to do it. Their after-the-fact attempts to couch their deliberate disregard of Ahmed’s rights as being motivated by concerns for the safety of the other students has only added to the harm Ahmed and his family have suffered.”
Mohamed has suffered “clearly severe” monetary damages that are “quite difficult to quantify,” Hollingsworth claimed. He said Mohamed’s name and likeness are now “forever associated with arguably the most contentious and divisive socio-political issue of our time.”
“Ahmed feel[s] the burden of responsibility for his siblings being harassed and scared to go to school, for his father’s business suffering greatly from Mr. Mohamed’s absence, for one of his sisters being fired from her job, and for neither of his older sisters being able to find schools in Qatar,” the attorney wrote.
At the Thursday night dinner in Alexandria, Kher praised the attorney general for the investigation, saying the arrest of 14-year-old Ahmed “really struck a chord with many parents, so we really appreciate the department’s leadership.”
“Obviously, this is a country based on free speech, but when it edges toward violence, when we see the potential of someone lifting that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric … we will take action,” Lynch said. “I think we have charged 225 defendants with hate-crimes offenses over the last six years, most of those in the last three years.”
Lynch said the Justice Department has launched more than 1,000 hate crimes investigations since Sept. 11, 2001.
“Sadly, I think that number is going to continue,” she said. “I think it is important, however, we make it clear that actions predicated on violent talk are not American. They are not who we are, they are not what we do, and they will be prosecuted.”
Irving officials told The Dallas Morning News on Friday they have “received no communication” from the Justice Department regarding an investigation of Ahmed’s arrest.

From Courthouse News.

Clock-Making Student Wants $15M for Arrest

November 23, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Ahmed Mohamed is demanding $15 million and written apologies from a Dallas suburb and school district for his arrest after his homemade clock was mistaken for a bomb at school, making the 14-year-old a worldwide celebrity.
His attorney, Kelly D. Hollingsworth with Laney & Bollinger in Plainview, Texas, sent letters Monday to officials with the city of Irving and the Irving Independent School District and demanded $10 million and $5 million, respectively.
The letters give the city and school district 60 days to comply or face civil rights lawsuits. Mohamed’s civil rights were violated and he was “clearly singled out” because he is Sudanese and Muslim, Hollingsworth writes.
“Irving Police officials immediately determined that the clock was harmless. The only reason for the overreaction was that the responsible adults involved irrationally assumed that Ahmed was dangerous because of his race, national origin, and religion,” the 10-page letter to the city states. “Let’s face it; if Ahmed’s clock were ‘Jennifer’s clock,’ and if the pencil case were ruby red bedazzled with a clear rhinestone skull and crossbones on the cover, this would never have happened.”
Mohamed has stated the clock consisted of a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display inside a mental pencil case with a tiger hologram on the front. A photograph of a bewildered Mohamed wearing a NASA T-shirt while being led away by police in handcuffs during his Sept. 16 arrest has been widely retweeted.
“Ahmed never threatened anyone, never caused harm to anyone, and never intended to,” Hollingsworth writes. “The only one who was hurt that day was Ahmed, and the damages he suffered were not because of oversight or incompetence. The school and city officials involved knew what they needed to do to protect Ahmed’s rights. They just decided not to do it. Their after-the-fact attempts to couch their deliberate disregard of Ahmed’s rights as being motivated by concerns for the safety of the other students has only added to the harm Ahmed and his family have suffered.”
Hollingsworth says Mohamed has suffered “clearly severe” monetary damages that are “quite difficult to quantify.” He says Mohamed’s name and likeness are now “forever associated with arguably the most contentious and divisive socio-political issue of our time.”
He says “Ahmed feel[s] the burden of responsibility for his siblings being harassed and scared to go to school, for his father’s business suffering greatly from Mr. Mohamed’s absence, for one of his sisters being fired from her job, and for neither of his older sisters being able to find schools in Qatar.”
Mohamed and his immediate family have since moved to Qatar, accepting a full scholarship from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development for his remaining high school and undergraduate education. Hollingsworth says that other damages are easier to quantify, that Mohamed and his sisters had a right to a free and adequate public education.
“Ahmed first attended Irving Independent School District in pre-K, and he and all of his siblings had gone to school nearly exclusively in the district,” the letter states. “When, two days after the incident, in coordination with the city, [school principal] Daniel Cummings went on the MacArthur High School intercom system and called Ahmed and his family liars, he took that opportunity away from Ahmed and all of his siblings.”
Mohamed wants a written apology from Mayor Beth Van Duyne “acknowledging that she has never been presented with any evidence that Ahmed was a ‘pawn’ in any ‘civilization jihad’ or that the events here were planned by Ahmed’s family or friends as part of an ‘influence operation.'”
He also wants written apologies from school district officials and Police Chief Larry Boyd acknowledging Mohamed “never intended to threaten anyone and that his detention, interrogation, and arrest were wrongful and were made at a point in time when there was no reasonable suspicion to believe that Ahmed had committed a crime or was about to commit any crime.”

From Courthouse News.

Ahmed Mohamed Moving to Qatar

October 21, 2015
By David Lee
DALLAS (CN) – Hours after meeting President Obama at the White House on Monday, the Texas teenager who was arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school said he is moving to Qatar to further his education.
Ahmed Mohamed, 14, of Irving, was handcuffed and arrested by four police officers at MacArthur High School in September when he brought his homemade device to school to show a teacher. The clock consisted of a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display inside a pencil case, with a tiger hologram on the front.
Mohamed said the principal threatened to expel him if he did not make a written statement. He was suspended from school for several days but police declined to press charges.
“They were like, ‘So you tried to make a bomb?'” Mohamed said at the time. “I told them no, I was trying to make a clock. He said, ‘It looks like a movie bomb to me.'”
A photo of a bewildered Mohamed in handcuffs quickly went viral, amid comments of Islamophobia and racism.
Mohamed’s father, Mohamed Elhassan Mohamed, believed his son was mistreated.
“He just wants to invent good things for mankind,” the father said at the time. “But because his name is Mohamed and because of Sept. 11, I think my son got mistreated.”
President Obama quickly stepped into the fray, inviting Mohamed to Washington.
“Cool clock, Ahmed,” Obama tweeted on Sept. 16. “Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”
Mohamed briefly met the president Monday evening at the White House Astronomy Night. The annual event hosted several hundred high school students, teachers, NASA officials and scientist Bill Nye to discuss space exploration and careers in science and technology.
Obama told the group that NASA is working on sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.
“That means some of the young people here tonight might be working on that project,” he said. “Some of you might be on your way to Mars.”
Mohamed returned to Texas after spending the past few weeks on a world tour, visiting Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, among other places. His family said Tuesday that Mohamed has accepted a full scholarship from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development for his remaining high school and undergraduate education. He will join the “prestigious” QF Young Innovators Program and his family will move with him.
“Earlier this month, we were invited to visit QF and were hugely impressed by the state-of-the-art facilities, community atmosphere and vast array of U.S. and international campuses in Education City,” the family said in a statement. “My son Ahmed is very excited.”
Mohamed said he loved the city of Doha “because it is so modern.”
“I saw so many amazing schools there, many of them campuses of famous American universities,” he said. “The teachers were great. I think I will learn a lot and have fun, too.”
U.S. schools with branch campuses at Education City include Texas A&M, Georgetown, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern.
After Mohamed was arrested, his family hired Dallas attorney Thomas Bowers, but no lawsuit has been filed over his arrest.

From Courthouse News.