A controversial Florida pastor and his associate were released from jail tonight after being held briefly for refusing to pay a $1 "peace bond" after a jury ruled they would "likely breach the peace" with plans to protest a mosque.
Judge Mark Somers of Dearborn's 19th District Court jailed pastors Terry Jones and Wayne Sapp about 7 p.m. The order came after a six-member jury at 6:30 p.m. sided with prosecutors who argued the Quran-burning minister's demonstration outside the Islamic Center of America could spark a riot.
Prosecutors had sought a $45,000 bond. Somers also ordered both to stay away from the mosque for three years. The order drew gasps, confusion and shouting in the courthouse.
The pair were tried under a rarely used law originally passed in 1846 that requires those who are likely to breach the peace to post "peace bonds."
"Nobody expected this," said Charlie Langton, a lawyer and legal analyst, who added the pair could theoretically be jailed for five years if they continue to refuse to pay the bond.
"It is prior restraint, but the judge followed the letter of the law. It's purely legal because it's never been challenged. That is not right. It's an old law that I don't think applies to this case. I think they'll have to appeal it."
At the Islamic Center, a cheer went through the crowd of 100 after police announced the jailing.
"That's what should happen when people say they are going to break the law," said Neda Kardri, 29, of Dearborn.
The situation was in flux, however. Wayne County prosecutors announced at 7:20 p.m. that Jones and Sapp decided to pay the $1 bond. Seven minutes later, prosecutors announced that pair had changed their minds and wouldn't pay the bond.
"These proceedings were solely about public safety. This was never about prohibiting free speech or fearing rioting but about a situation that could potentially place the public in danger in Dearborn," Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement.
"I will continue to take stands to be proactive in keeping Wayne County safe."
Rana Elmir of the ACLU of Michigan, called today's outcome a "complete abuse of the court process."
"This should have never come to this point to begin with. The judge should have dismissed the case yesterday instead of giving Jones and his cohorts a platform," she said. "It's a complete abuse of the court process and all those involved should be ashamed."
Elmir said the prosecutor's office and Dearborn court have "turned the First Amendment on its head."
"Rev. Jones came to Dearborn for his 15 minutes of fame. The judge and prosecutor's office have given him hours," she said. "Rev. Jones has never committed a crime and should not be sitting in jail for his protected speech. In a free society no one should be thrown in jail for speech, even as distasteful and offensive as Mr. Jones'. At the end of the day, he's ultimately being punished for speech that has not occurred. This is blatantly unconstitutional."
Elmir said the ACLU is also "deeply concerned" that Jones is banned from the mosque.
"The government is essentially silencing Rev. Jones and his cohorts in anticipation that their message will not be welcome," she said. "We have to remember Rev. Jones has not been accused of a crime. His conduct has never been at issue, it has always been his speech. It's not a crime in the United States to speak freely even if your remarks are hateful, controversial, distasteful or offensive."
Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council of American-Islamic Relations Michigan chapter, said he didn't believe the pastors should have been jailed, "although I believe Pastor Jones is misguided and has styled to make himself a First Amendment martyr."
Former Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga, however, said the judge was within the boundaries of the statute.
After the verdict, a crowd of about 200 people has formed at the Dearborn police station, waiting to see if Jones will be taken to jail as police are putting up barricades.
The protesters shouted "racist" at David Grisham, a leader of an activist group "Repent Amarillo" who came to Dearborn to suppport Jones. Grisham is running for mayor of the Texas town. As protesters surrounded Grisham, police put him in a car and escorted him out of the area.
Many of the protesters were from the Detroit-based group, By Any Means Necessary, which have criticized changes in the Detroit Public Schools.
During closing statements, Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran called the planned protest a "recipe for disaster."
The mosque is located on busy Ford Road; Jones has been threatened with violence; and hundreds are expected. Nearby churches are planning afternoon Good Friday services, and just Thursday night, Jones accidentally discharged his pistol leaving a television studio. No one was injured, but Moran asked "what if it happened again" during the demonstration.
"They can't control their guns getting into a car, let alone a stressful situation," Moran said to the jury and Judge Mark Somers.
Moran warned that "people could die" if the protest proceeds and Jones has "continually said he 'will not abide by the law of Dearborn.'
"He wraps himself in the rights of the First Amendment," Moran said. "It's not that easy. Just because you have first amendment rights, doesn't mean you can do whatever you want whenever you want."
Throughout the day, Jones said he's coming to protest jihad and Sharia law and has no plans to burn Qurans or images of Muhammad. He said that, should the trial go long, he will return next Friday to protest.
"We are not criminals," said Jones, who wore jeans and a black Harley Davison T-shirt to court. "All we want to do is exercise our First Amendment rights."
Jones, 59, founder and president of Stand Up America Now!, acted as his own lawyer in the trial over the city's decision to deny him a permit or set a "peace bond" to protest on public land. The city has offered instead the opportunity to protest in "free speech zones" away from the mosque.
As a large contingent of police were outside, Jones rested his case after calling only two witnesses — Grisham and Rabbi Nachum Shifren, a settler of the West Bank, an educator in the Los Angeles school district and an avid surfer who founded Jewish Surfers International.
"I do not intend to incite a riot," Shifren said.
Jones argued the Quran "promotes terrorist activities around the world." Jones infamously conducted a burning of a Quran in March along with pastor Sapp, 42. The incident was blamed for an outbreak of violence in Afghanistan that led to several deaths.
But during closing arguments, Jones called the free speech zones unconstitutional and argued that fears about what may happen are no reason to deny him a permit. Much of the prosecutors' case was based on worries that Jones' message — not actions — might start a riot, the pastor said.
"Is intimidation and fear enough reason to give in. Once we start giving in, when do we stop?" Jones asked.
"The First Amendment is only valid if it allows us to say what other people do not like."
Jones also took a swipe at an imam who suggested that burning a Quran is seen by some as worth 1,000 lives.
"Is one book worth a 1,000 lives? A book does not breathe. It does not live. A book is a book," Jones said.
"The Bible is a book. Go to the mall, get a bible and burn it. I will feel sorry for you. I will pray for you. I will think you are foolish. But I will buy another one. Because it is a book. It is not worth 1,000 lives."
Jones and Sapp squared off against Dearborn Police Chief Ronald Haddad over Haddad's denial of a permit based on intelligence information that Jones might burn a Quran today. Haddad confirmed that Jones and his group never indicated they would burn a Quran.
"I have no evidence to back up my fears," Haddad said, "but your behavior in the past has led me to that fear."
Haddad testified he's received information involving two individuals from the city's southeast side who are being investigated for threats on Jones and promising violence at the protests. Haddad wouldn't elaborate, but said during a break that the city has received another e-mailed threat about Jones' plans.
Five permits were requested for today outside the mosque, and all were denied, Haddad said.
"I have great concern based on the intelligence we've developed," he said.
Another police official testified overtime and other costs for the protest would run $46,352.
Sapp said the planned protest was to be a peaceful one. He and Jones argued that the controversial Westboro Baptist Church protested outside the mosque last year without incident.
"We have never threatened to cause any violent action," said Sapp, who was also wearing a Harley-Davidson shirt.
Outside the mosque, two brothers who supported Jones were confronted by the crowd, which had grown to 80 people by 6 p.m.
"Are you calling us terrorists?" a crowd member asked as he and others surrounded Jesus and Ruben Melendez.
Police intervened and guided the brothers to a spot where a barrier separated them from the rest of the crowd.
Jesus, 47, whose Detroit ministry is called Victory in the Blood, said he opposed Islam extremists.
"I don't support burning the Quran but I support his message about radical Islam," he said.
With tempers rising, Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini, leader of the mosque, arrived in a black police cruiser to plead with the crowd to remain peaceful.
"We need no confrontation," he said over the police car's intercom. "This isn't good for Islam or anything."
The crowd responded by chanting "peace." Two members of the crowd held aloft Qurans.
About20 Dearborn police cars are at the mosque and arrived with lights flashing. Two officers were also on the roof. Except for police, most of the others at the mosque were members of the media, including a reporter from Russia.
"It's a big story, a controversial story," said Andrey Cherkasov, a reporter with Channel One.
He said the issue never would have reached a court in Russia because the nation would have ruled against the protest and that would have been the end of the matter.
Members of the Michigan State Police also were present.
Meanwhile, several hundred people gathered at the Henry Ford Centennial Library across town on Michigan for a vigil to promote peace. Several dignitaries, including U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, were expected to participate.
Muslim leaders were adamant that they do not oppose Jones' right to congregate or to free speech. But they insisted that free speech also carries with it a "sense of responsibility."
Earlier today, before arguments began, Jones said he had thought of the possibility of getting up and leaving if his jury trial is still going on at the time of his demonstration. Jones also said he doesn't think his gun mishap outside of WJBK-TV's (Channel 2) studio Thursday evening following an appearance on the station's "Let It Rip" news show will have an effect on the trial.
"I don't think it will have anything to do with it. It was an accident," he said. "It was my fault."