Felony charges for man who spoke too long at township meeting


#1

[Permalink]


#2

Except that freedom of speech does have time limitations in certain places. You don't have the right to go to a public meeting and monopolize the time of everyone else there. If you want to exercise your freedom of speech without time limitations, stand on a street corner or write a blog. But public meetings have rules that people have to follow in order to be manageable and get public business done. Even the elected officials have limits on when and how long they can speak.

Should he face felony charges? No. But he was wrong and is acting like a spoiled child who didn't get his toy.


#3

Here's some further info from a source that isn't Fox "News" (to be fair, this watered-down semi-truthful version is being reported by some CBS stations too) . This guy makes a point of causing a ruckus at meetings he attends, and goes so far as to accuse township officials of "Taliban"-style activities. This isn't a matter of free speech being infringed upon. This is a guy who takes it upon himself to behave in a disruptive manner, then starts crying "MAH FREEDOMS!" when he isn't permitted to continue in such a manner.

Certainly a case could be made that having time limits on public commentary at these meetings is potentially freedom-of-speech hampering, but if everyone gets the opportunity to run on and on about anything and everything for as long as they want, how are they supposed to get anything done? stuck_out_tongue Every meeting would be 8 hours long. I'd think there'd be a way to cut his most important points down to a three-minute statement (I'd bet there's a good bit of unnecessary rhetoric in his original speech. He seems like the ranty sort).


#4

I think the issue is more that he's facing felony charges. Yes, it's reasonable that he shouldn't be allowed to completely monopolize everyone's time, and having police force him to stop if he's obviously being unreasonable and disruptive may even be justified. But a felony? A felony means a serious crime- in the United States, it's defined as a crime punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year. So the question to ask is: was what this man did so serious, so dangerous and harmful, that it warrants throwing him in prison for over a year?

EDIT: To be fair, he was charged with a misdemeanor for disturbing the peace- the felony was for resisting a police officer. I think my question still stands, though.


#5

Whether or not he's a bit of a douchebag or annoying shouldn't be an issue.

I think escorting him from the building is reasonable if he disrupts the meeting beyond a certain point.

But the felony charges are obvious attempts to silence free speech and basically vindicates some of this guy's rhetoric.


#6

FYI: Contact information for the Bridgeport Township can be found here (page 30):

http://www.saginawcounty.com/Docs/Clerk/clerk_directory.pdf#townships

Interesting to note that they are all labeled as "(D)."


#7

Well, nah, I suppose not. Sort of both in response to you and to ktaylor​38854's reply below - they already just had him removed from the room, multiple times, and he still couldn't take the hint that his behavior was inappropriate. So this reads to me like they're trying to send a message more than actually get him locked up. I suppose they went about it the wrong way - but I take HUGE issue with the way the board is being villainized in the media over this. They're trying to conduct business and he has apparently made it his mission in life to disrupt that. Anyone would lose patience with that nonsense.

Yes, it's fine and well to take issue with what the government, local or national, is doing. But you do not need to be a disruptive a**hat to do so. Behaving like an adult will get you further. Except perhaps not in the eyes of the media, it seems - which matters more than it should, apparently.


#8

I suppose a felony charge is better than using a real-life version of killfile on this troll, but I agree that it's too drastic for the disruptive behavior involved. I think that a misdemeanor charge (with a hefty fine) would be less likely to be overturned on appeal.

A few days under observation might actually be the right choice. This could be a case of needing some medication.


#9

I agree 100%. Even without the backstory, this guy sounds like a dick who thinks the 3-minute limit is for other people, but the First Amendment guarantees him the microphone as long and as often as he wants.

Also, no the felony charge doesn't smack of repression. It smacks of "don't wrestle with the cops." Why is this even a story?


#10

I went to a township meeting in Michigan once. Less than half the people there were there to listen.

One guy sort of seemed to be there to listen (he didn't have a blatant agenda), but then he managed to find something to say about everything. In the end, he hadn't said very much, even if we had heard him quite a lot.

No real point, but I guess just showing up already makes him more likely to be crank.


#11

I'm very sympathetic to the city council here. Most city councils have to deal with a regular cast of nutbags who monopolize meetings with unhinged rants about contrails or whatever their particular bullshit is.


#12

The linked article is so vapidly useless as to hardly be worth any attention at all. This appears to be pure sensationalism.

First a Daily Mail headline, and now this?


#13

Not so interesting. I live in rural, labor-friendly Illinois where most office holders are labeled "Democrat", but may as well be conservative Republican.


#14

I know! By my reckoning we're already 77 feet under the 7th sub basement of the ninth circle of hell.
One wonders how much further one must dig.


#15

I don't care who is right or who is wrong, I just hate watching every American get arrested and charged with a crime that will fuck up their work, voting and basic freedoms for the rest of their life for basically a non-crime. Resisting arrest, gimme a break, in the grand scheme of things, that's as much as a crime as the thought I'm having of those cops right now.


#16

I have sympathy for the township. There are people like this at almost any large city council meeting. Whats annoying is when you are at the meeting to listen or even speek on an agendized meeting item there can be an hour or two of people during open comments and people like this make it take longer and longer. Some city councils move public comments to the end of the meeting. Which winds up hurting people there with legitimate issues. I have seen people who have been screwed over by city staff show up and plead a quick case in 2 to 4 minutes at a city council meeting in open comments and basically the city manager shakes her head takes on the issue and gets it fixed the next day. Those people get trampled by these wackos who show up every week to talk about the alien possessed city staffer taking secret arial photos of their flower garden.

I am assuming the judge will probably toss the case. The question is will the guy return and keep it up?


#17

It's sad that so many people think felony charges are an appropriate response to being a "dick" in public meetings of government. The inconvenience of letting him rant for a few minutes is cheap; the expense of processing this case will be thousands of dollars, even with a near-instant nolle prosequi, buried invisibly in the municipal budget.

And then he sues, and the township's insurers force a payout...

Smarmy authoritarianism, pointless as it is in blog comments, is painful when present in government, where the social costs are measurable in real dollars, and it's always communities, not officials, who pay.


#19

I think that most people here are in agreement that felony charges seem a bit ridiculous, but also are in agreement that this guy appears to be a bit of a nutbag whose sole purpose is to interfere with and prevent the normal functioning of government at these meetings. Letting him drone on endlessly is not an option (as it would obviously prevent any actual work from getting done as well as denying the other members of the public their right to address their local government).

I think this is far more than "letting him rant for a few minutes". The question becomes, what is an appropriate way for the local government to respect his first amendment rights while at the same time respecting the rights of the other attendees, and the purpose of the meeting to actually get something done? I'd argue that acknowledging and addressing this conundrum is far more than "smarmy authoritarianism".


#21

You really have to have a meeting about the kind of meetings you intend to have.
If people wish to discuss their feelings about how long they should be able to speak, you can let them go on for a while. It's really a bit too meta for most and chatterboxes tend to fade in such an environment.

Once you have logically voiced your opinions and collectively agreed that a time limit of some kind can be a sane thing to want in some cases, the bad faith mess in the corner of the room has to reveal themselves in disagreement or forever hold their tongue. (or y'know, drone on and get reprimanded but at least you tried)


#22

Well, it sounds like this sort of thing had already happened, and a time limit had been set that Mr. Obstructionist was just having none of. The question then once you have established rules, is do you let the local kooks disregard said rules to the detriment of everyone in attendance, or do you enforce them, and if you do enforce them, what is an appropriate way to do so?

The fact is that I don't think that the BB readership has all of a sudden adopted a great love of government or the police in general, but we do realize that there are vital functions to government, and rules in place to allow it's proper functioning. As long as these rules don't impinge on the rights of the citizens, then expecting people to respect and follow those rules is not "smarmy authoritarianism", but rather trying to keep one man's mental issues or illness from dragging everybody else around him down into his chaos.