A year ago, news outlets and gossip rags were all abuzz over reports that a middle-aged couple flagged down the cops along the P.C.H. — claiming that Gary Busey was drunk-driving — in a paparazzi-style effort to set Busey up and take his picture surrounded by the boys in blue.

Turned out that Busey was sober and the couple, Mark Abel and his wife, children's author Patrice Karst, were arrested and charged with obstructing a police officer.

Now, in the most recent development, the couple claim that they're the real victims in the whole affair and that the actual perpetrators are …

… none other than deputies at the beleaguered Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

In a recently filed federal court lawsuit against LA County, Abel and Karst claim that deputies wrongly arrested them after they took pictures of Busey and the officers.

What's more, the couple accuse the Sheriff's Department of then lying to the media by saying that the couple were members of the press who tried to frame Busey to get a paparazzi photo by falsely telling police that the celebrity was drunk-driving.

Citing such outlets as PerezHilton.com, TMZ and LA Weekly, Abel and Karst say that “The story has irreparably harmed” their reputations and now “dominates Internet searches” of them.

According to the couple's lawsuit:

Abel and Karst were driving down the PCH from Malibu to Pacific Palisades with their pet dachshund Coco when they spotted a throng of police cruisers along the side of the road. They decided to pull over.

Next, Karst says that she stepped outside of the car and, using her pink rhinestone iPhone, snapped a few photos of the officers interacting with Busey.

When a deputy told her to stop and asked whether she was with the press, Karst claims that she told the officer she was a member of the “people's” press — a vague and cheeky way to indicate that she was not officially with the media.

Karst, however, says she did stop photographing the scene and got back into the car and drove off — unable to resist taking a few last photos as they pulled away.

They claim that the very next thing they knew, officers pulled them over, placed them in handcuffs, searched their car, confiscated the iPhone and took away their dog, giving it to animal control services.

Ultimately, Abel and Karst were charged with obstructing a peace officer — a charge they say the Sheriff's Department has “refused to dismiss.”

“As a matter of law,” the couple claim, “the act of photographing police officers in public space does not form the basis of an obstruction charge in light of constitutional protections. …”

Abel and Karst are suing the county and numerous deputies for allegedly violating their right to photograph officers in public, and for false arrest … which sounds honorable enough.

However, the couple do make reference to their disappointment at not being able to cash in on the photos, accusing the deputies of erasing some of the pictures from Karst's phone and thus screwing them out of any money they could have made by selling them.

“The deleted photographs have news value,” Abel and Karst claim, “and, consequently [the] deletion of the photographs deprived [us] of their monetary value.”

It appears as though the couple's constitutional right to profit off of Busey's notoriety has been denied.

LA Weekly