Friday, August 28, 2009

Disorderly Conduct in GJ - Part 3

Today I received an e-mail from Wini Stevenson, the woman that was cited by Grand Junction Police for Disorderly Conduct after displaying a sign reading "PSYCHO" on her truck, parked in front of the house of a neighbor with whom she was having a dispute. I detailed this in previous posts this month, which are available here and here.

I called Wini this afternoon. She let me know that she had decided to contact the ACLU after watching coverage of President Obama's visit to Grand Junction, and seeing so many of the disparaging things written on signs and displayed at that event.

She did receive a reply from the ACLU, but it didn't matter after she appeared in Grand Junction Municipal Court this past Tuesday and was informed that the Disorderly Conduct charge against her had been dismissed with prejudice. This means that she cannot be charged again for the actions that she took back in July.

Wini added that the number of requests for police response all had their roots in the community block party that she had obtained a City permit for, and that her neighbor apparently had extreme difficulty with, to the point that the neighbor wrote a letter of complaint to their Homeowners Association.

Wini stated that after this event, she had turned on her stereo in her garage while washing her truck, and the police arrived in the area shortly thereafter. She added that she was feeling as though she was being harassed for engaging in lawful activity around her place of residence. Wini also said that she felt the police officer that cited her was doing so just to quiet the protestations of the neighbor across the street.

Wini added that she was concerned about the effect of the publicity in the local media on her reputation and her business, and had contacted the Daily Sentinel regarding the manner in which her case was portrayed in the Police Blotter of August 1. She also said she is looking into her options in the civil courts concerning the disparaging treatment she received in her neighborhood.

It's heartening to see another good outcome on the civil liberties front in the Grand Junction area. I hope that the neighborhood involved, as well as local law enforcement, take this case to heart when developing alternatives to engaging in non-communicative, escalating behavior, or attempting to bend a vague law around its intended use and running headlong into the First Amendment.

As per my previous post, the City Attorney's office has elected to review this case further. While the dismissal of the charges against Wini Stevenson may be a result of that review, I hope that additional training will also be in the offing for those in government who are faced with these types of disputes every day.

Remembering alternatives such as Mesa County's Mediation Center, and referring those involved in disputes to resources that can prevent it from entering the civil or criminal courts, may be a better first step than how this case was eventually handled.

In the meantime, I'll be looking forward to reading about the dismissal of the charge against Wini Stevenson in the paper sometime soon.

Have a great weekend.

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