Driver With Anti-Trump Sticker Mulls Suing Sheriff After Arrest

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The Texas sheriff appears to have ignored the U.S. Constitution and its First Amendment when he thought it would be OK to threaten the owner of the sticker.

UPDATE:  Karen Fonseca added a “F*** Troy Nehls” sticker next to her expletive-laden, anti-Trump sticker after being arrested on an outstanding fraud charge. Now, her lawyer said she’s considering launching a lawsuit against Nehls.

During a press conference on Monday just outside the Fort Bend County Justice Center, Fonseca, 46, told reporters that she believes she was targeted because Nehls disliked her anti-president sticker, thinking it was offensive.

Claiming her rights have been violated, Fonseca told reporters that Nehls has “messed with the wrong person.”

“It's not two wrongs make a right. It's making my statement and saying, 'If you're going to put me on blast and you want to gain some votes, let's put the real Troy out there and give you what you wanted,’” the mother of 12 said.

Brian Middleton, Fonseca’s attorney, said both he and his client were considering filing a civil rights claim against Nehls and his office, adding that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was interested in the case. He also stated he would be willing to see the FBI and the Texas Rangers take a closer look into Nehls and his use of power to attempt to silence Fonseca.

“This is protected speech. So anyone who has a sticker like this is within their rights under the U.S. Constitution,” he said.

Nehls responded by saying that the fact Fonseca drove around in a vehicle with an anti-Trump sticker may have brought her public attention but that the “recognition did not cause her to be indicted by a grand jury for Felony Fraud.” That, he said, happened back in August.

Nehls claimed that Fonseca's sticker brought the charge to the sheriff’s attention and that it has nothing to do with her decision to use her free speech rights to publicly complain about Trump.


The owner of an expletive-laden, anti-Trump sticker was arrested on Thursday on an outstanding charge involving fraud.

After Karen Fonseca spent about four hours in the Fort Bend County Jail, she was released on $1,500 bond. She’s scheduled to appear in court Friday on the fraud case, which was filed in July.

According to Fonseca, the charge of fraudulent use or possession of identifying information is news to her.

“I turned around and he told me there was a warrant for my arrest," she said. "I had no idea that I had one.”

After leaving with her husband, she told reporters that she was still not sure what was going on, telling them she had to talk to her lawyer first.

Her husband, Miguel Fonseca, told reporters he was also surprised about the warrant.

“My wife called me, telling me they're coming to pick her up about something they said she did in 2015-2016,” he said. “I guess this sticker is causing a lot of problems.”

Regardless of what happens, he added, the sticker “[is] going to stay up there, no matter what.”


 

Freedom of speech is still protected by the Constitution. And despite Texas’ aspirations to become its own country, it’s still part of the United States. So why was a local sheriff giving a driver some grief for driving around with an anti-President Donald Trump bumper sticker?

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls was  given a picture of what turned out to be Karen Fonseca’s truck with a bumper sticker that read “F*** TRUMP AND F*** YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.”

According to deputies, several locals had called the sheriff’s office to complain about the message.

But instead of simply shaking his head or making a comment or two about how he disagreed with the driver’s sentiment to his colleagues, Nehls decided to take it to Facebook to say he had received complaints about the “offensive” display, asking the owner to identify herself. On top of that, he added a warning that sounded a lot like a threat.

“If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you. Our Prosecutor has informed us she would accept Disorderly Conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it,” the post read.

Unfortunately, Nehls’ Facebook post appears to have been deleted. But long before Nehls brought it down, the image and threatening tone triggered First Amendment advocates, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Texas chapter, whose staff responded with a comment saying the sheriff “[may not] ban speech just because it has ‘f@ck’ in it.” The group also said that the truck owner should feel free to contact the ACLU if she needed legal help.

Once Fonseca identified herself, the sheriff learned she had actually worked for Nehls at the county jail.

While the truck belongs to her husband, she said, she’s the one who drives it regularly. She also explained that the sticker had been custom made for the couple, and they put it in the back window after Trump was sworn in. And while that may have been the first time she was called into the sheriff’s office over it, she told reporters she had been pulled over before, but officers could never think of a reason to give her a ticket.

Instead of caving in to the sheriff, Fonseca said that she will not back down.

“It’s not to cause hate or animosity,” she explained. “It’s just our freedom of speech, and we’re exercising it.”

After Nehls’ post went viral, he held a press conference to tell reporters he wasn’t trying to intimidate the driver.

“We have not threatened anybody with arrest. We have not written any citations,” he said. “But I think now it would be a good time to have meaningful dialogue with that person and express the concerns out there regarding the language on the truck.”

The sheriff said he fears the language in the sticker could ignite a confrontation.

“I don’t want to see anything happen to anyone,” Nehls said. “With people’s ... mindset today, that’s the last thing we need, a breach of the peace.”

Despite his good intentions, it seems that the one who was trying to disturb the community’s peace with threats was the sheriff — not Fonseca.

Intimidating someone for exercising their freedom of speech when you have the power to arrest them sounds a lot like a case the ACLU would have loved to take to court. Thankfully, Nehls appeared to bring his tone down the moment he noticed he could get in real trouble over it.

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