A bizarre story about bumbling FBI agents vandalizing innocent American citizens' vehicles to conduct clandestine surveillance is an apt introduction to the next stage of the long process of addressing the government abuses associated with Pittsburgh's mishandling of its G20 event.
The ACLU filed its lawsuit during September, which means the plaintiffs' lawyers should begin to receive documents and other evidence from the defendants later this month. (It's a federal court-supervised process, which means the city law department and its insurer-supplied colleagues will have limited opportunity to rely on their customary rope-a-dope tactics.)
The main event -- revelation of systematic and unlawful abuse of citizens, assignment of blame and awarding of damages -- is likely to occur in 2011 or 2012, but an instructive appetizer course should be served before the end of this year, when details concerning widespread and improper government spying begin to emerge.
(Expect the defendants to ask the court to restrict the plaintiffs' entitlement to publicize the evidence; expect a federal judge to stop laughing long enough to sign an order denying the defendants' request.)
Revelation of evidence might incline more victims -- not only those with bruises, but also those who were not aware they were being abused by police misconduct -- to file complaints. At some point, that specially purchased insurance limit might begin to look less comfortable (not for plaintiffs, or course -- they would be entitled to tap general InsolvenCity accounts to collect court judgments -- but for taxpayers).
Is City Council paying attention to this enormous contingent liablity? Or to the conduct that created it? This 30-second video alone (left) may be worth a million dollars, and the video on the right distills how silly the city's arguments will appear to a jury (stay with it to the end):