A former Henrico County firefighter’s suit alleging her rights were violated when she was fired following her arrest at a demonstration during the inauguration of President Donald Trump can now go to trial, a federal judge has ruled.
Rosa Dianne Roncales, who lost her job in April 2017, filed suit in 2019 alleging her free speech rights and due process rights were violated by four of her former fire department superiors and Henrico County. Last year, U.S. District Judge M. Hannah Lauck dismissed the county as a defendant.
In a partially-redacted, 54-page opinion unsealed Thursday, Lauck held that there were issues of fact for a jury to decide and rejected a request for dismissal from fire officials named in the suit. Lauck also turned down a bid from Roncales for a ruling in her favor without a trial on her claim her due process rights were violated.
Roncales was arrested at the Jan. 20, 2017, inauguration in Washington. The suit says that Roncales attended the inauguration protest on her own time and wore nothing that would identify her as an employee or member of the Henrico Fire Department.
She was arrested with more than 200 others and charged with rioting, inciting a riot, conspiracy to riot and multiple counts of destruction of property. All of the charges against her were ultimately dismissed.
According to the suit, she reported the arrest to a superior three days later. She was fired in April 2017 for purported discrepancies between the information she gave fire officials during the administrative investigation of her arrest and the information given them by police in Washington, D.C.
Among other things, fire officials said she failed to disclose that she had placed tape over brand name markings on her clothing and backpack and that she had two “gas masks” in her backpack.
Roncales said she was not asked about the tape and that she had two respirators, not gas masks, and that she was unsure if the respirators were in her backpack or her partner’s backpack.
The suit said that when questioned by fire officials, she said she had no intention to break the law and when she saw others doing so, she made every effort to get away from them.