On Tuesday, January 9, 2018, I stood trial. I stood accused of Disorderly Conduct: Loud and Raucous Noise, causing distress to people inside a public building. This article will provide a snapshot of the trial, the verdict, and the sentencing.
The Parties and the People’s Burden
Prosecutor, representing the Johnson County and the State of Iowa: Assistant Johnson County Attorney, Andrea L. Jensen. Andrea was assisted by another prosecutor.
Presiding Judge: Magistrate Edward J. Leff.
The state’s case rested upon the testimony of three witnesses:
- Michael Bailey, Senior Manager for Safety and Security, with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland
- Officer Jeffrey Schmidt, Iowa City Police Department
- Officer Brad Reinhard, Iowa City Police Department.
- Proving the elements of the crime, beyond a reasonable doubt:
- the noise I made was both loud and raucous
- that the noise caused people distress
- the allegedly distressed people were inside a public building at the time of the incident.
The day began with paneling a jury of six people (five women and one man).
What the evidence actually showed:
- On May 30, 2017, at approximately 10:00 AM, I was standing on a public sidewalk, approximately 60 feet from the front door of Planned Parenthood, in Iowa City.
- I was reading my Bible aloud, without the aid of amplification.
Michael Bailey testified that my voice could be heard inside the building and that, in his opinion, people in the waiting room were distressed. He heard people in the waiting room talking about me and he saw people shuffling in their seats. That’s it.
No one to whom I allegedly caused distress was either identified or testified.
We were not allowed to make a defense on constitutional grounds, regarding freedom of speech.
The judge overruled our argument that a “public building” is one that is owned/controlled by the public/government. A “public building” is not simply a building accessible to the public. He refused to make a distinction between a business opened to the public and a public-owned building (i.e. courthouse, public school, public library, etc.).
The insistence of the prosecuting attorneys throughout the trial was that I was not on trial for whatI said, but rather for the way I said it.
As the defendant, I was not required to testify. I decided to testify because I wanted the people in the courtroom to hear the gospel.
The jury deliberated for about 30-45 minutes. They returned with a unanimous guilty verdict.
I requested immediate sentencing, and the judge obliged.
I was sentenced to:
- 30 days county jail (suspended). This means so long as I am not arrested again or violate probation during the next year, I will not have to go to jail on this conviction.
- One year of self-supervised probation.
- Do not have contact with any Planned Parenthoods during the next year.
- Pay a fine of $135, plus court costs.
During sentencing, the judge made his displeasure with me known. My attorneys well-argued that I said nothing offensive, abusive, or threatening while outside Planned Parenthood, but that I simply read the Bible. I testified that I wanted people inside Planned Parenthood to hear me–not to cause them distress, but rather to bring them hope and peace in Christ.
However, during sentencing, the judge likened me telling people they were sinners who needed to turn to Jesus to cursing at people. The judge’s words left me convinced that my arrest, conviction, and sentencing were indeed about the content of my message, on May 30, outside Planned Parenthood. My conviction was the result of reading the Bible. My conviction was the result of proclaiming the gospel.
On Wednesday, my elders spent a good portion of their weekly meeting discussing how best to counsel and support me, in light of my conviction. Yesterday, my elders and I spent a few hours discussing how best to proceed. We all agreed the best and right thing to do is to appeal my conviction to higher courts.
My reason for appealing my conviction is not merely to overturn my conviction, for my own benefit. I realize that while I am no one from nowhere, my conviction can and will likely be used against other Christians ministering outside of abortuaries, or anywhere on the streets for that matter. To the extent that I am able, I simply cannot and will not allow that to happen. I love the Bride of Christ. I cannot stand by and do nothing while others use my conviction to try to hurt my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Please pray that we are able to quickly find good attorneys to represent me in the appeal process.