(NaturalNews) An independent journalist and local newspaper editor from central Ohio was laughed out of a Greene County courtroom recently after suggesting that talking to people on a public sidewalk constitutes free speech. Retired Judge Catherine (Kathryn) Barber, who was filling in for Xenia Municipal Judge Michael Murray, literally laughed at Virgil Vaduva from the Greene County Herald when he attempted to defend his First Amendment right to talk to people in public.
The outrageous incident occurred after Vaduva decided to stand out in front of the Xenia City Hall to raise public awareness about the unconstitutionality of the city’s anti-panhandling law, which prohibits people from asking other people for help within 20 feet of public sidewalks or local businesses. Vaduva recorded his various encounters with local residents, many of whom he persuaded that anti-panhandling laws are unconstitutional, resulting in some of them even making donations to a local charity as a result.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the city was none too pleased with Vaduva’s exercise in free speech — and in an ironic twist decided to falsely prosecute him for panhandling, based on the very law against which he was protesting! In a rational society, this blatant form of civil persecution by the state would have been immediately identified as such and thrown out as a false charge. But Vaduva was ordered to appear in court to defend his fourth degree misdemeanor charge, and it was in the courtroom where things got really interesting.
Greene County, Ohio, Judge Catherine Barber prohibits mention of Constitution or civil rights in courtroom, claims doing so would “confuse the jury”
An audio recording of Vaduva’s pre-trial hearing tells the full story of this major case of injustice in Xenia, as Judge Barber is heard agreeing with a motion filed by Ronald C. Lewis that “there will be no mentioning of the Constitution” in the courtroom. Judge Barber can also be heard laughing at Vaduva as he attempts to defend his free speech activities on public sidewalks:
This scandalous response, according to an account of the proceedings by the Liberty Crier, was preceded with a suggestion by the prosecutor that any mention of the constitution or civil rights would just “confuse the jury.” And apparently Judge Barber agreed with this sentiment — referencing the founding documents of our nation in an official courtroom was not to be allowed because it might expose the City of Xenia for violating the civil rights of its residents.
“By dictating the nature of speech in a public space, the City of Xenia has directly violated the first amendment of the United States Constitution,” wrote Vaduva in a personal account of his experience published in the Greene County Herald.
Ironically, the prosecutor in the case, Ronald C. Lewis, had earlier been charged with committing tax fraud after it was discovered that he had avoided paying taxes on income earned off the books. Lewis was let off the hook by a municipal judge, and yet he is now attempting to convict another local resident of committing the non-crime of exercising free speech.
“You see how easy it is for those in power to get away with serious crimes?” notes Vaduva. “It is almost like magic. Those of us who do not wear black robes and blue uniforms are often looked at as property by those in power. Judges, politicians and police are in essence running this new plantation where the poor and the disenfranchised are barely allowed to exist.”