Insane Clown Posse, ACLU Appeal Judge’s Decision Tossing Lawsuit Against Feds

A federal judge said the Farmington Hills rappers and their fans, known as Juggalos, didn’t establish how they have been harmed by the government’s claim that a subset of fans are a hybrid criminal gang.

Insane Clown Posse members Joseph “Violent J” Bruce and Joey “Shaggy 2 Dope” Utsler said their fans have the right to listen to any music and associate with any people they want without fear of persecution. (Screenshot: ACLU Michigan video)
Insane Clown Posse members Joseph “Violent J” Bruce and Joey “Shaggy 2 Dope” Utsler said their fans have the right to listen to any music and associate with any people they want without fear of persecution. (Screenshot: ACLU Michigan video)

Insane Clown Posse and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan say they’re appealing a federal judge’s decision to throw out a lawsuit against the FBI and Department of Justice for tagging the horror rappers’ fans, known as Juggalos, a “loosely organized gang.”

In dismissing the case last week, U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland said the ICP and its fans lack standing – a legal requirement that forces individuals to prove they were harmed.

In the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Juggalos last January, ACLU Michigan and Joseph “Violent J” Bruce and Joey “Shaggy 2 Dope” Utsler, who perform as ICP, arguing federal authorities had unfairly classified the entire fan base as a “hybrid”criminal gang, violating their rights to freedom of expression and association.

At the time the lawsuit was filed,  ACLU of Michigan legal director Michael J. Steinberg said the plaintiffs were “fighting for the basic American right to freely express who they are, to gather and share their appreciation of music, and to discuss issues that are important to them without fear of being unfairly targeted and harassed by police.”

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"Branding hundreds of thousands of music fans as gang members based on the acts of a few individuals defies logic and violates our most cherished of constitutional rights,” he said.

The FBI justified its label, according to a report by The Detroit News last spring. In its 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment, the FBI said the “transient, criminal Juggalo groups pose a threat to communities due to the potential for violence, drug use/sales, and their general destructive and violent nature.”

The government also said in the report that some Juggalos have been involved in felony assaults, thefts, robberies and drug sales.

In a brief asking Cleland to dismiss the lawsuit, the federal government argued it only labled a “subset” of Juggalos as gang members, the Detroit Free Press reports.

But in his ruling, Cleland said plaintiffs misdirected their complaints and the Juggalos were harmed by local law enforcement and the U.S. Army, where some Juggalos are soldiers, not the FBI.

But Steinberg said the “only way to remedy this injustice for all innocent Juggalos is to start with the root of the problem – the FBI’s arbitrary and erroneous branding of hundreds of thousands of music fans as gang members.

He said some fans have been subjected to improper investigations, detentions and other denials of their personal rights at the hands of government officials or denied employment.

“There is no doubt that the FBI created this problem and the solution begins there as well,” he said. “Otherwise, we’ll be playing whack-o-mole to stop local law enforcement agencies from discriminating against our clients, when the agencies are just following the FBI’s lead.”

Bruce, who goes by Violent J, said ICP will continue its fight “to clear the Juggalo family name.”

“There has never been – and will never be – a music fan base quite like Juggalos, and while it is easy to fear what one does not understand, discrimination and bigotry against any group of people is just plain wrong and un-American.”

There are about 1 million Juggalos in the United States, according to federal government estimates.

The ACLU and ICP are asking the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the order dismissingthe case

The federal government estimates that there are more than a million Juggalos in the United States.

The ACLU of Michigan and ICP are asking the appeals court to overturn the judge’s order dismissing the case and to order the DOJ to remove the Juggalos from the government’s list of gangs so that the fans of ICP will no longer be unconstitutionally and unjustifiably singled out as targets for scrutiny and harassment by law enforcement authorities throughout the country. The lawsuit goes on to assert that the DOJ’s classification of the Juggalos as a gang is unconstitutionally vague and violates the Juggalos’ constitutional rights to association and speech.

The Juggalos are represented by ACLU of Michigan attorneys including Michael J. Steinberg, Dan Korobkin, Kary Moss and ACLU cooperating attorney Saura J. Sahu, Emily Palacios and James Boufides  of the law firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone. The members of the Insane Clown Posse are represented by Howard Hertz and Elizabeth Thomson of the firm Hertz Schram and Farris F. Haddad of Farris F. Haddad & Associates, P.C.

» Learn more about the case here.


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