Pro-life activist fined $5,000 for ‘trespassing’ on public sidewalk
JACKSON, December 10, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A Mississippi judge has handed down two suspended six-month jail terms and $5,000 in fines for Kristina Garza, a pro-life activist who was arrested in March for handing out literature in front of Murrah High School in Jackson. Garza is a member of the Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust Campus Life Team, a group that raises awareness about abortion among students using pro-life literature and graphic images of aborted babies.
Judge Ivory Britton found Garza guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct, but dismissed a third charge of interfering with a bus driver. He also issued a bench warrant for Brianna Baxter, who was arrested with Garza but failed to appear in court. Defense lawyer James Bell said Baxter was taking finals at her school in California, and that he was authorized to act on her behalf.
Garza’s lawyers maintained that both Garza and Baxter were standing on a public sidewalk, peacefully offering literature to students as they boarded school buses. They argued the arrests were a violation of their clients’ First Amendment rights.
Jackson Public Schools campus enforcement officers said Garza and Baxter stood on the buses’ wheels and distributed the pamphlets through the bus windows, but Garza’s lawyers denied the pair went near the buses.
Judge Britton dropped the charge of interfering with a bus driver, but found Garza guilty of trespassing and disorderly conduct even though she was on a public sidewalk. Britton ruled that because students were attempting to board school buses at the time, the sidewalk was “not just a public sidewalk” and Garza’s First Amendment rights did not apply.
Garza’s attorney said he will appeal the decision. Garza was granted a $1,000 appeal bond per count to keep her out of jail in the meantime.
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