MURRIETA, CA -- Yesterday, a trial court in Riverside County, California, heard arguments why the prosecution's case should be dismissed in the case of People v. Brett Coronado. Advocates for Faith & Freedom are defending Pastor Brett Coronado and Mark Mackey on misdemeanor charges after they were arrested in front of a California DMV while Mr. Mackey was reading the Bible out loud. The incident took place on February 2, 2011, in front of a group waiting for the DMV to open for business.
This case has generated national news, such as the story that ran on Fox News Channel today. Additionally, a YouTube video of the incident and arrest can be viewed by typing in "Hemet Pastor Arrested for Reading Bible". Both men have been spit on and threatened at other locations in the past when engaging in similar activities. As a result, it is their practice to video their evangelism to protect them from false accusations -- just as appears to be occurring in this case.
Initially, when Mr. Mackey was arrested, the CHP officer stated that it was illegal to "preach to a captive audience." After the defendants were placed in jail and upon learning that no such penal code prohibits preaching to a "captive audience," the officer issued a citation for "impeding an open business" with threats or intimidation under Penal Code Section 602.1(b). However, the district attorney again changed the charges claiming trespass after the government realized the business was not actually open and, presumably, saw the video showing no threats or intimidation.
Unfortunately, the trial judge declined to dismiss the case. Advocates vows to appeal the decision because the trespass law the CHP is currently relying on is unconstitutional. In fact, other federal courts that have reviewed the same statutory language used in the California Penal Code have been declared unconstitutional.
"This is an abuse of power on the part of the CHP," said Robert Tyler, Associate General Counsel for Advocates for Faith & Freedom. "The arresting officer could find no appropriate penal/ code to use when arresting these men. The purpose of the arrests appears to have been to censor them."
Advocates for Faith & Freedom has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of these three men for violation of their right to free speech and for unlawful arrest, but that case has been stayed pending the resolution of the state court prosecution. Also, join us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our progress in this case and others.