Posted Aug 15, 2013 03:30 pm CDT
Four protesters of police conduct in Las Vegas are facing potential jail sentences if they are convicted of misdemeanor graffiti charges for writing messages on washable chalk outside metropolitan police headquarters and the Regional Justice Center.
Attorney Robert Langford is representing Brian Ballentine, 31, Catalino de la Cruz Dazo Jr., 20, Hailee Jewell, 18, and Kelly Wayne Patterson, 44, on a pro bono basis and calls the case a violation of their First Amendment rights, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“Under that standard, any kid that does hopscotch patterns on the sidewalk can be guilty of the same crime,” he said of the decision to prosecute the case under anti-graffiti laws.
Police reports contend it cost the city more than $1,500 to have a graffiti abatement team power-wash the sidewalks, although an unknown woman washed away some of the words by spilling a cup of coffee on them, the newspaper notes. Langford says authorities exaggerated the cost of the clean-up and claimed sidewalk damage due to power-washing, in order to justify arresting and jailing the protesters until bail was posted, rather than simply citing them.
“Justice in this case is that the case should be dismissed,” said Langford. “They were engaged in constitutionally protected First Amendment activity. Period. They have the right to engage in that type of protest. This was something that was harmless.”
However, District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the case is not about “a kid drawing with a piece of chalk on the sidewalk. These are adults who used chalk to draw profanity,” he told the newspaper. “And there is a law on the books that make it a crime to engage in this activity.”
A preliminary hearing is set for December.
ABAJournal.com: “Chalk Protester’s Free Speech Rights Violated, Judge Rules”
ABAJournal.com: “Jury acquits in case over anti-bank messages, picture of money-grabbing octopus chalked on sidewalk”