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Toomer Cited for Contempt for Refusing to Testify

Posted July 9, 1997

— A former DMV employee received a $100,000 payment to keep quiet about something, but lawmakers wanted to know what Algie Toomer's secrets were.

Toomer appeared Tuesday before a house panel that's looking for some answers. What happened was quite strange. Algie Toomer was sited for contempt because he refused to answer any questions from House members. Toomer used his right to free speech not to speak. That's different from his right not to incriminate himself-- a right his lawyers made clear he was not taking.

Toomer was feeling the heat even before he stepped before the House Personel Committee which is investigating why Toomer, a former DMV officer, was paid off by the state. Toomer alleges that he was harrassed by superiors.

Toomer's attorney, Michael McGuiness, says that in over ten years of civil rights litigation, he has never observed or even heard of a situation where a citizen has been so oppressively attacked with raw government power and outright brutality.

But as far as finding out what that brutality was, all the committee heard from Toomer was a plea of his First Amendment rights. Toomer didn't plead the Fifth, he pleaded the First-- the right to free speech. By the same token, our government cannot force us to speak, so there are really two sides to the first amendment

That consitutional explanation didn't fly with Committee members, one of whom said it seemed as though Toomer's attorneys may have been digging to find a reason for him not to testify. Representative Carolyn Russell says her committee is simply a fact-finding committee. The citation was issued because the committee didn't get the facts. Somehow, she says, they will find a way to get them.

Photographer:Ron Pittman andKerrie Hudzinski

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