April 22, 2006

Don't be a jerk. It's not just a good idea, it's the law. (evidently)

This story is of interest not only because it's rather amusing, but because it infers that simply expressing your views by mail, albiet by being an a-hole about it, could get your arrested. Also of note is that it's been reported on other sites that E. Moline mayor Thodos was overheard saying that alderman had supposedly recieved death threats from those who wanted them to vote AGAINST the expansion of the enterprise zone which would benefit the hog slaughterhouse. This allegation of course has not been proven and is just hearsay. This would seem to indicate that the abuse was coming from the other side.
From Q.C. Online:
Writing a strongly opinionated letter to public officials with obscene language in it might be a crime in Silvis.

John T. McGregor, 22, 1015 2nd Ave., Silvis, was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with ordinance violations alleging disorderly conduct and breach of the peace because he used profanity in a letter he wrote to aldermen two weeks ago. He criticized the council for voting April 4 against enterprise-zone benefits for Triumph Foods' proposed pork processing plant site in East Moline.

Mr. McGregor said Friday afternoon he's going to court to contest the charges because he feels he has a constitutional right to express his opinion.

A Silvis police report says although the letter has no threats in it, Mr. McGregor was charged because the unsigned, typed letter "shocked, alarmed and disturbed the complainant."

Mr. McGregor said he understands why Ald. Katherine Cutrer, 4th Ward, who filed the complaint, could have perceived the letter as offensive. He said he felt there was only one swear word in the letter.

In a copy of the letter provided to The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, Mr. McGregor wrote, "Am I for the hog Plant- No, AM I FOR THE ENTERPRIZE (sic) ZONE (IN WHICH YOU SHOULD BE VOTING for- YES) ...

"Can we do better than a pig plant -- Hell yeah, but by not passing the enterprise zone, what other business will want to come in? Re-vote without the plant on your mind. That's not the f----- issue, open your eyes and address what is at hand."

The rest of Mr. McGregor's letter voices his anger in other strong language. Ald. Cutrer was hesitant to talk about the issue Friday. "The young man made a mistake," she said. "He called me and apologized."

When asked about her thoughts on the case possibly going to court, Ald. Cutrer said, "I don't care. It's a dead issue to me."

Ald. Bill Fox, 2nd Ward, who also received the letter, was surprised to learn Mr. McGregor wants to pursue the matter in court. "To me, I didn't feel like (the letter) was real threatening. It was just a bunch of foul language," Ald. Fox said. "He certainly has a right to come and speak at a council meeting without sending us nasty letters."

Ald. Fox said he felt defrauded by the young man because Mr. McGregor used Ald. Fox's address and other aldermen's residences as return addresses on postal envelopes to hide Mr. McGregor's identity.

According to the police report, Mr. McGregor mailed the letters from a post office. An employee of the postal service described Mr. McGregor as the man who mailed several letters to the aldermen. The postal service employee recognized Ald. Fox's address listed as a return address and knew the man wasn't related to Ald. Fox.
Mr. McGregor could pay a $50 penalty within seven days of his arrest, and then the case would be closed, police Chief William Hawbaker said. Chief Hawbaker was unavailable late Friday to comment further on Mr. McGregor's decision.


At 4/22/2006 5:40 PM, Anonymous Tacky said...

Perhaps the aldermen who felt threatened by the other side of the issue will now be willing to speak up.

At 4/22/2006 7:05 PM, Blogger UMRBlog said...

I try to keep up with these things but I missed the memo about the first amendment being totally suspended. I thought it was still legal to petition the government using creepy language. I knew it was illegal to speak in a warm and friendly manner to Muslims while Gonzo's listening to your cell phone but this is a big step, even for Scalia, Roberts, Alito and LD Silver.

As has been noted for years in one of our neighboring counties, "Pigs are people, too."

I guess that has a double meaning here. This correspondent may have behaved like Swine but is bad manners supposed to be illegal.


At 4/26/2006 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Piggish behavior is protected First Amendment speech. The cops however are breaking the "law of the land".


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