A New York town called Liberty proved to be against liberty after it arrested a man for calling it a “shitty town” in protest over a speeding ticket.
But now that the New York Civil Liberties Union stepped in, the town of Liberty will now learn a lesson in liberty, specifically the First Amendment which gives us the right to criticize government officials.
Even if that criticism includes profanity. Or in this case, three profane words in a five-word sentence.
“Fuck your shitty town, bitches” is exactly what William Barboza wrote on his payment form after pleading guilty for a speeding ticket in 2012.
He also scratched out the name Liberty and replaced it with the word “Tyranny.”
Tyranny Liberty officials were so offended that they refused the payment, ordering Barboza to drive into town to face a judge, a two-hour drive from his Connecticut home.
When he stepped into the courtroom, a prosecutor named Robert Zangla ordered him arrested, claiming that “court clerks felt threatened” by his words and were “worried for their safety because of it,” according to last week’s summary judgment against Liberty.
In 2012 Barboza was pulled over for speeding in the Town of Liberty, located in Sullivan County in upstate New York. He pleaded guilty by mail, and when he paid his fine expressed his frustration by scratching out “Liberty” and replacing it with “Tyranny” and writing “fuck your shitty town bitches” on the payment form. His payment was rejected, and he was instead ordered to travel the two hours from his home to make a court appearance. At that court hearing, two police officers acting on the orders of an assistant district attorney arrested Barboza for allegedly violating the state’s former “aggravated harassment” statute. He was fingerprinted, handcuffed to a bench, and then driven to a different court in a separate town, where he was arraigned without a lawyer. He was then taken to the county jail in another town where he had to pay $200 in bail and was only released hours later.
The charge, aggravated harassment, was eventually dropped. And the aggravated harassment statute was ruled unconstitutional in 2014 in another case where it was applied.
In this case, the court ruled that not only was the prosecutor’s order was unconstitutional but that the town of Liberty must now stand trial on the claims that it failed to train its police officers on the First Amendment.
A photo of the document that caused all the ruckus is below.