A Boston police officer is suing the city after he was suspended for referring to a black Harvard professor as a "banana-eating jungle monkey" in an e-mail.
Boston police Officer Justin Barrett apologized for his e-mail about Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
"If I'm charged with a crime I want a chance to answer. I want the chance for a fair hearing," Officer Justin Barrett told CNN on Tuesday.
Barrett has apologized and denied he is a racist.
His lawsuit claims his civil rights have been violated; Barrett's lawyer said the words referring to Henry Louis Gates, Jr. were misinterpreted.
"The choice of words were poor; but they weren't meant to characterize professor Gates as a banana-eating jungle monkey," attorney Peter Marano said. "They were meant in a response to behavior and characterizing the behavior. Not the person as a whole."
Marano said the city had effectively fired Barrett, though he is officially suspended with pay.
He said it was fair to hold Barrett to a higher standard than the general public because he is a police officer, but that he was still entitled to express his opinions.
"Being held to a higher standard shouldn't eradicate his right under the First Amendment for free speech. That is part and parcel of the lawsuit," the lawyer said.
Gates was arrested at his house last month when a neighbor called police after she thought she saw a man trying to break into Gates' home. The man turned out to be Gates himself, who was attempting to free a jammed door.Click to read.