Massillon Area Man Acquitted After Being Cited for Swearing in Police Station

Affiliate: ACLU of Ohio
May 2, 2013 1:23 pm

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Decision Helps to Protect Free Speech for Everyone

May 2, 2013

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MASSILLON, Ohio – Yesterday, a Massillon Municipal Court judge acquitted Heath Devoll, a Brewster man who was charged with disorderly conduct after uttering the phrase, “This is bullshit,” while leaving the Massillon Police Station on April 8.

“This was a cut and dried case of protected speech,” said ACLU Staff Attorney Drew Dennis. “Mr. Devoll’s statements were not threatening or antagonistic. On his way out the door, he exercised his First Amendment right to criticize the police department’s handling of his case. For that he was detained and cited for disorderly conduct.”

Devoll had been trying to file a police report after someone shot out the windshield of his vehicle. Frustrated by an officer who refused to take his complaint, he muttered the critical remarks as he left the station. He was taken back inside the station, detained, and cited “for cussing.” Later he learned from the officer’s supervisor that he would in fact be allowed to file a police report for the vandalism incident.

“This was the victim of a crime who came to the police station for help. Not only was he turned away, he was detained and cited for expressing his frustration with an unhelpful system,” said Dennis. “When law enforcement officials disregard the First Amendment it has implications for all of us. That is why the Massillon Municipal Court made the right decision in this case.”

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