A Texas sheriff on Wednesday suggested criminal charges are possible for the owner of a white truck that bears a profane message for President Donald Trump and his supporters, sparking a debate about the line between obscene words and freedom of speech.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls threatened to charge a driver with disorderly conduct because of a profanity-laced anti-Trump sticker. The Republican sheriff serving an area southwest of Houston claimed the profane banner is putting a bad taste in locals' mouths, drawing "numerous calls regarding the offensive display".
The owner of the truck was soon revealed to be Karen Forsenca, a mother of 12 (!) who adamantly refuses to alter her vehicle. "Our Prosecutor has informed us she would accept Disorderly Conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it".
With nearly 5,000 comments on the Facebook post, some are glad the sheriff is addressing the issue, particularly since children can see the post.
Fonseca told the newspaper she and her husband were just exercising their freedom of speech and did not plan to remove the sticker.
They say everything's bigger in Texas, and that apparently includes truck decals.
Sheriff Troy E. Nehls of the Fort Bend Sheriff's Office posted the threat on his personal Facebook page on Wednesday, but the post has since been deleted. "That's our opinion on him", she said. They smile, they stop you, they want to shake your hand.
"(2) makes an offensive gesture of display in a public place, and the gesture or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace".
"I don't want to see anything happen to anyone", the sheriff said.
The American Civil Liberties Union posted on Facebook that "you can't prosecute speech just because it contains words you don't like".
"It would be a good time to have meaningful dialogue with that person and express the concerns out there regarding the language on the truck", Nehls said.
"Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey told Eyewitness News that he was never consulted about any charges on the owner of the truck prior to Nehls" social media post and that he questions whether the language posted on the truck meets legal requirements for "disorderly conduct" as specified by the sheriff.
Nehl's post has gone viral, garnering almost 10,000 shares and more than 18,000 comments. Others are asking if it infringes upon the owner's free speech.