CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – A handicapped defendant whose crawl up courthouse steps led to a Supreme Court (search) decision on access for the disabled was arrested on charges of possessing illegal drugs.
George D. Lane, 45, was arrested Sunday morning in a car stopped on a road in rural Polk County. A deputy's report said that car doors were open, Lane's pants were pulled down and baggies of suspected methamphetamine (search) were on the ground. It also said more suspected drugs were found later inside his prosthetic leg.
Lane has a long criminal record with more than 30 arrests on drunken driving, drug and other charges. He served a 13-month prison sentence for using his crutch at the Polk County Jail to strike another inmate in the head.
But he became an unlikely hero for the disabled when the Supreme Court ruled in May 2004 that he and five other plaintiffs had the right to sue states for failing to meet requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act (search). He had sued the state of Tennessee because he was forced to crawl up the Polk County Courthouse steps in 1996 to attend his own hearing.
Advocates for the disabled said the threat of hefty damage awards would be a powerful tool to force governments to follow the requirements of the act.
Lane's attorney, William Brown, said the drug arrest should not detract from what the lawsuit accomplished.
"The point is the courtroom is now accessible to everybody with disabilities," Brown said Thursday. "He has blazed a trail where other people who have those problems don't have to deal with that anymore."
Lane was being held with no bond pending a court hearing next week, officials said.