The owner of a pickup truck that has been driving around the Houston, Texas, area, sporting a profane anti-Trump sticker, was arrested Thursday on an outstanding warrant.
Karen Fonseca was arrested about 2 p.m. on an outstanding fraud warrant issued in August by the Rosenberg, Texas, Police Department, Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office records show.
Husband Mike Fonseca posted her $1,500 bond Thursday night and she was released an hour later, Houston’s KHOU-TV reported.
On Wednesday, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls posted a photo of the offensive truck on Facebook, seeking to find the owner and threatening to bring disorderly conduct charges against them. However, District Attorney John Healey said he didn’t think the case would stand up in court because of First Amendment protections on free speech.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said Thursday that Nehls removed the post after Fonseca was identified. “Due to the hate messages he has been receiving toward his wife and children, the sheriff will not be commenting on the matter further,” the spokeswoman said in an email.
Defending her right to keep the sticker on the vehicle, Fonseca, 46, told the Houston Chronicle, “It’s not to cause hate or animosity. It’s just our freedom of speech and we’re exercising it.”
Noting that the anti-Trump message has been on the rear window of the pickup for nearly a year, Fonseca said, “There’s no law against freedom of speech, nothing in the law book here in Texas.” She told KHOU-TV. “I’ve been stopped numerous times, but they can’t write me a ticket.”
Lynne Rambo, a law professor at Texas A&M University specializing in First Amendment issues, said Thursday that a 1971 Supreme Court case made two points clear: The state’s attempt to regulate profanity or civil discourse is not a sufficient reason to justify restricting speech, and profane language directed at a specific person is different from vulgar content that’s broadly disseminated.
“It’s state action to threaten as (Nehls) did, and he really ought to know First Amendment law better than that,” Rambo pointed out.
Nehls said he supports freedom of speech but worried that profane messages could incite others and lead to confrontations that would disturb the peace he’s pledged to keep.
The Fort Bend County district attorney has no plans to file charges over the sticker, KHOU reported.