The founding fathers of the United States of America clearly and unequivocally intended that there be at least some situations in everyday life where the force of the law and the government may simply not go.
That’s why they added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution, including the First Amendment which guarantees the right of free expression as number one on the list. Government may not punish a person’s expression of thoughts, i.e. expressive speech, even if that speech is mean spirited, unkind, unpopular or cruel.
Mockery – the right to mock and revile others -- has traditionally been part of the right to freedom of speech and expression in America. In point of fact, any law which would presume to punish mockery would per force become a mockery of the Constitution and the First Amendment.
But don’t try to explain that fundamental principle to the legal authorities in Canton Ohio.
They just finished sentencing a man to 30 days in jail for the manufactured “crime” of mockery.
Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending this idiot. I’m simply defending his constitutional right to express himself as an idiot.
He and his 9-year-old son were filmed in front of a school bus imitating the limping gait of a 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. The two reportedly made a habit of imitating the girl’s limp at the school bus stop in full view of she and her classmates.
Yes, they were cruelly mocking her.
Apparently there is some sort of ongoing feud between the two families involving their children. The disabled girl’s family members it seems were in the habit of calling the man’s 9-year-old son, who suffers from seizures and ADHD, a ‘retard.’
Their response was to mock the little girl’s disability, humiliating her and causing her to cry. "They just kept calling my little boy (names) and I reacted badly. You have to defend your son, your children." said the man.
The little girl’s grandmother filmed the incident and then called the police.
The man, William Bailey, 43, pleaded no contest to reduced misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing at a municipal court in Canton, Ohio. The judge gave the man the maximum sentence for his “crime.” His son won’t face any charges because of his young age and because prosecutors thought he was acting under the influence of his father.
Am I missing something here? Imitating someone’s limp is disorderly conduct? Mockery of this sort is aggravated menacing? If that is so, surely the cast and crew of Saturday Night Live are going to have to turn themselves in.
And we’re talking about reduced charges here. What were the original charges? I’m still racking my brain. This deserves the maximum sentence? What planet do this prosecutor and judge live on? Have they ever even heard of the First Amendment? Is Canton Ohio located within the United States of America?
What attorney would allow his client to plead guilty to disorderly conduct and aggravated menacing for imitating someone’s limp? What prosecutor would have the nerve to bring these charges? What judge in his right mind would throw a man in jail over this?
Limping is not a crime. Imitating a limp is not a crime. This guy was not thrown in jail for limping. He was jailed for his thoughts! He was convicted for expressing his mind! He was persecuted for exercising his rights of free speech!
As despicable as the man’s speech was, and I agree it was loathsome, it was the prosecutor and the judge who committed the crime here.
They’re guilty of mocking the First Amendment in Ohio.