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Street preacher's claim of unconstitutional arrest rejected

2 years 9 months 1 week ago Monday, February 17 2020 Feb 17, 2020 February 17, 2020 4:32 AM February 17, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press
Photo: Conley Group

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal appeals court has refused to revive a lawsuit filed by a Louisiana street preacher who said he was unconstitutionally arrested in 2015.

Court records show Clarence Dean Roy faced a disturbing the peace charge — on which he was later acquitted — after a woman accused him of verbally accosting her outside a bar in Monroe.

Court records show Roy was known for preaching against homosexuality outside gay-friendly bars. Appellate Judge Grady Jolly’s opinion said Roy was carrying a six-foot cross and wearing an orange jump suit on the night in question. He was arrested on a complaint by a woman identified in the court record as Jessica Falcon.

“Falcon reported that Roy had followed her, saying ‘ugly, lewd things,’ including that she is a ‘homosexual,’ that her ‘father is the devil,’ and that she is ‘going to hell,‘” Jolly’s ruling said. “Roy has denied following Falcon, making these statements, or even ‘seeing’ Falcon on the night of the incident.’

Sgt. James Booth arrested Roy on a disturbing the peace claim, based on the woman’s complaint.

After his acquittal, Roy sued the arresting officer and the city, saying Monroe’s disturbing the peace ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, that Booth lacked probable cause to make the arrest and that his constitutional freedoms of speech and religion were violated.

On Thursday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the suit. The ruling said there appeared to be probable cause for the arrest, that Monroe’s disturbing the peace ordinance is constitutional and, based on the court record, was reasonably enforced.

“In the picture that emerges, Monroe police officers make reasonable distinctions between protected expression and forbidden provocation,” Jolly wrote on behalf of a three-judge 5th Circuit panel.

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