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Cincinnati pays $25,000 to settle lawsuit over arrest of wheelchair comic's promoter

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CINCINNATI — A comedy promoter who asked people if they wanted to laugh at a "crippled girl" in a wheelchair and then was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge has received $25,000 from the city to settle his federal lawsuit alleging violation of his free-speech rights, his attorney said Wednesday.

Cincinnati police charged Forest Thomer in 2012 after he asked people at a park if they wanted to "laugh at the crippled girl," referring to his friend and comedian Ally Bruener, who has muscular dystrophy.

The question wasn't intended to demean Bruener but to promote her next comedy show and her website, the two said.

Bruener, who's from Alexandria, Kentucky, said she would approach people after Thomer asked them the question, tell a joke and talk about her next performance. Thomer, who's from Cold Spring, Kentucky, would record some of the people's responses for use on Bruener's website, showing them saying: "I laughed at the crippled girl."

PHOTO: FILE - In this June 13, 2012 file photo, Ally Bruener, right, poses for a photograph with friend Forest Thomer at her home in Alexandria, Ky. The comedy promoter, Thomer, who asked people if they wanted to laugh at a “crippled girl” in a wheelchair and then was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge has received $25,000 from the city to settle his federal lawsuit charging violation of his free-speech rights, the man’s attorney said Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. The question wasn’t intended to demean Bruener, but to promote her next comedy show and website. (AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cara Owsley, File)  MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES
FILE - In this June 13, 2012 file photo, Ally Bruener, right, poses for a photograph with friend Forest Thomer at her home in Alexandria, Ky. The comedy promoter, Thomer, who asked people if they wanted to laugh at a “crippled girl” in a wheelchair and then was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge has received $25,000 from the city to settle his federal lawsuit charging violation of his free-speech rights, the man’s attorney said Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015. The question wasn’t intended to demean Bruener, but to promote her next comedy show and website. (AP Photo/The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cara Owsley, File) MANDATORY CREDIT; NO SALES

Bruener said she uses humor to try to remove any stigma about the use of the word "crippled."

Thomer was cited on the disorderly conduct charge on May 23, 2012. Cincinnati prosecutors said he put his hands on people to get their attention. He was acquitted and filed the free-speech lawsuit, which also alleged malicious prosecution.

Thomer's attorney said the city could have handled the situation differently.

"I think that Forest made his point with this litigation that the city had a lot of other ways to resolve this matter other than interfering with his free-speech rights," attorney Tim Burke said Wednesday.

He said the city paid the $25,000 on Tuesday.

The city didn't admit liability, according to the settlement document. A message seeking comment was left for a city attorney on Wednesday.

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