An Ohio teen who sued police for confiscating his Insane Clown Posse T-shirt in August has settled for an undisclosed sum and a letter of apology.
"If people like a band, then they shouldn't be stopped from wearing it," Daniel Shellhammer, 14, said Wednesday (April 19), shortly after the Lucas County probate court approved the settlement.
Shellhammer sued in January for damages, costs and a declaration that his First Amendment rights had been violated.
Northwood, Ohio, police officers Joseph Conley and Al Williams stopped Shellhammer while he was walking to a store to buy sodas on Aug. 3. The officers ordered him to hand over his shirt, which depicted on the front a Santa Claus with a bullet in his head, and on the back the words "Merry F---ing Xmas Bitch," Shellhammer's lawyer Arnold Gottlieb said. The police told him that ICP clothing was banned in the state, according to Shellhammer's account.
"It was the content of the shirt as opposed to any conduct by Daniel," Gottlieb said Wednesday. "That's an important distinction to be made."
Joan Szuberla, attorney for the city of Northwood, would not comment on the resolution beyond saying she was satisfied.
"I would like to convey my sincere apology for any inconvenience or embarrassment you may have experienced in connections with the actions of our police officers," City Administrator Charles Curtis wrote in the letter to Shellhammer. "The incident was unfortunate." Curtis did not return a call for comment.
The controversial Insane Clown Posse whose most recent rap-metal album The Amazing Jeckel Brothers (1999) includes the songs "I Stab People" and "Fuck the World" (RealAudio excerpt) are far from the only group whose clothes have been the target of authorities in recent years.
In 1998 a woman in Kentucky and a man in Texas were arrested for wearing Marilyn Manson shirts bearing the phrase "I Am the God of Fuck," from the shock rocker's song "Cake and Sodomy."
That same year, a Rhode Island student was suspended from school twice for wearing a White Zombie shirt in a case that is still being contested.
Also in 1998, a Michigan high school student was suspended for wearing a T-shirt with only the name of rock band Korn printed on it.
Shellhammer, an eighth-grader whose other favorite bands include rapper DMX and the rap-metal band Kottonmouth Kings, said kids should not back down from sporting the clothes of outrageous bands. He's earned the respect of his peers for his own battle, he said. "I'm one of the most popular kids in school now."