Bolus sues arena, says free speech violated during Trump rally

By Roger DuPuis and Patrick Kernan - [email protected]
This photo, submitted by Bob Bolus, shows one of the trailers he says he was forced to move away from the main entrance of Mohegan Sun Arena during last week’s Trump rally. - Submitted
Bob Bolus, right, is seen in a 2016 file photo. He is suing the Mohegan Sun Arena, its parent organization and the U.S. Secret Service, claiming his rights were violated when he was asked to move tractor-trailers with pro-Trump political slogans away from the arena prior to last week’s rally by the president there. - Times Leader file photo

SCRANTON — Trucking company owner and Trump supporter Bob Bolus has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Mohegan Sun Arena and the U.S. Secret Service, alleging his free speech was violated during last week’s presidential rally when he was forced to move trailers emblazoned with political slogans away from the main parking area.

The Luzerne County Convention Center Authority, which owns the arena, together with management firm SMG, also were named as defendants.

Authority solicitor Joseph Persico said Wednesday he had not yet seen the suit and could not comment.

Secret Service spokesman Jeffrey Adams told the Times Leader that as a matter of practice, the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Efforts to reach Bolus Wednesday afternoon for comment were not immediately successful.

According to the suit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Scranton, Bolus brought three tractor-trailers to the arena at about 11:30 a.m. Aug. 2, nearly eight hours before President Donald Trump was scheduled to appear at the arena in Wilkes-Barre Township.

Bolus, who is representing himself in the case, has been a vocal supporter of Trump since before his election in 2016. The trucks are decorated with messages promoting the president and other Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Hazleton), whose U.S. Senate bid was the reason behind the president’s visit.

In the suit, Bolus says he arrived early to secure parking near the entrance, which he understood to be first-come, first-served. Bolus estimated the trucks would have occupied two-and-a-half parking spaces, and he was willing to pay for as many spaces as he took up. He also says he was not aware of any restrictions on types of vehicles allowed in the lot.

Bolus says he was greeted by Secret Service and venue security and informed that his trailers would need to be inspected by Secret Service canines, which he agreed to.

An inspection revealed the trailers to be empty, the suit adds, and the canines did not detect any contraband, drugs, weapons, illegal or prohibited items.

Bolus says he was told that “regardless of their findings, he would have to park the trailers a distance away from the arena, outside of the main parking area.”

In effect that silenced his political speech, Bolus said, “which is a protected right under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Bolus further alleges there was no uniform policy regarding safety inspections of vehicles, and that he “was treated differently than other rally attendees for impermissible reasons, including, but not limited to, his political views and expressions of speech.”

That, Bolus claims, violated his right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

His suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, interest and costs.

Previous lawsuit

The arena has come under fire in the past for its handling of demonstrators.

A federal judge earlier this year ruled that the authority and the Mohegan Sun Arena’s parent company do not have the right to block protesters from demonstrating outside the arena.

That ruling came in response to a suit by Lackawanna County animal rights activist Silvie Pomicter and California nonprofit Last Chance for Animals. They claimed the defendants employed policies that restricted “expressive activity” on the property, restricting protesters to a secluded area surrounded by barricades, away from foot traffic.

Pomicter, a native of Hanover Township, and the nonprofit said that violated their right to protest the treatment of animals at performances of the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The activists claimed this was a violation of their First and 14th Amendment rights. U.S. District Judge Robert D. Mariani sided with the protesters, saying the authority and SMG are prohibited from drafting rules specifically meant to diminish the rights of protesters.

Bolus also alleges his First and 14th Amendment rights, but also argued that he was at the arena to express his support for Trump, and not for “protest purposes.”

The outspoken Lackawanna County businessman and his trucks are no stranger to the headlines.

In 2016, one of his distinctive pro-Trump trucks briefly backed up traffic after its undercarriage got stuck while making a turn onto the Firefighters’ Memorial Bridge in Pittston and a police officer suspected the vehicle exceeded the bridge’s 40,000-pound weight limit.

Bolus later demonstrated the empty vehicle only weighed 29,480 pounds, and the $708 citation was withdrawn.

This photo, submitted by Bob Bolus, shows one of the trailers he says he was forced to move away from the main entrance of Mohegan Sun Arena during last week’s Trump rally.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_trump-trailer-7.jpegThis photo, submitted by Bob Bolus, shows one of the trailers he says he was forced to move away from the main entrance of Mohegan Sun Arena during last week’s Trump rally. Submitted

Bob Bolus, right, is seen in a 2016 file photo. He is suing the Mohegan Sun Arena, its parent organization and the U.S. Secret Service, claiming his rights were violated when he was asked to move tractor-trailers with pro-Trump political slogans away from the arena prior to last week’s rally by the president there.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/web1_bolus_file-7.jpgBob Bolus, right, is seen in a 2016 file photo. He is suing the Mohegan Sun Arena, its parent organization and the U.S. Secret Service, claiming his rights were violated when he was asked to move tractor-trailers with pro-Trump political slogans away from the arena prior to last week’s rally by the president there. Times Leader file photo

By Roger DuPuis and Patrick Kernan

[email protected]