Amid a group of protesters, Pastor Terry Jones (second from left) enters the 19th District Court Thursday to appear at a peace bond hearing. Jones refused to pay the bond, and a jury trial to determine if he poses a threat to public safety was still ongoing as of press time.
By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – A planned protest at the Islamic Center of America by Pastor Terry Jones was derailed Friday after two days of legal wrangling.
A jury in 19th District Court ruled that Jones and his co-protestor Wayne Sapp posed a threat to the public peace and fined each $1. They declined to pay the fines and chose to go to Wayne County Jail instead until the bond is paid.
Jones came to town last week to protest Shariah law and jihad and was in court on Thursday and most of Friday. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy filed a complaint April 15 with the court urging Jones not to participate in the protest, which had been scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday in front of the Islamic Center of America, 19500 Ford Road. The complaint expressed concern that Jones’ appearance might cause a riot. The jury’s ruling came about 7 p.m. Friday.
In another attempt to dissuade Jones from coming, O’Reilly, in an open letter to Jones, said that he will be allowed every freedom as long as Jones does not violate the rights of other people, according to the Constitution.
“The Constitution says that your rights must be balanced with the rights of others under the same document,” O’Reilly said. “Your free speech rights do not allow you to trespass on the private property of others or prevent them from the Constitutional right to freely practice their religion.” He added that while there is concern over the radicalization of Islam, it has not changed views of Islam as a whole.
“We have not let this concern turn into a twisted paranoia that promotes fear-mongering and misleading generalizations,” O’Reilly said.
Jones had applied for a permit to hold his event, but city officials denied it at first, the complaint said, because the city would have to pay out over $46,000 for crowd control barricades and a police command post to accommodate Jones. They proposed that Jones could post a peace bond to cover the costs, and could make his case Thursday in a hearing before 19th District Chief Judge Mark Somers. The proposal would have required Jones to pay an undetermined peace bond guaranteeing there would be no unrest at the protest. Some reports placed that amount at up to $100,000.
Somers said Thursday that the court had the option of issuing a warrant for Jones’ arrest or a summons to appear in court, adding that the court would not order the arrest unless there was an immediate threat to public safety.
Jones and Wayne Sapp, a fellow member of the Dove World Outreach Center, appeared at the peace bond hearing Thursday.
“Defendants have embarked on a threatened course of conduct designed to breach the peace within the city limits of Dearborn … to wit the incitement of a riot …,” the complaint read. “The greatest danger is the likelihood of a riot ensuing, complete with the discharge of firearms, unless this proposed bond is granted.”
During the trial, Police Chief Ronald Haddad said police identified four local threats to Jones, including one in Toledo, Ohio, and one in east Dearborn.
Jones on Thursday declined to pay the peace bond and opted for a jury trial on Friday. He appeared in court that day wearing a leather jacket, jeans and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle T-shirt. He acted as his own attorney, as did Sapp.
During the opening statements, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran told jurors that the trial was not about the suppression of Jones’ First Amendment rights.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Moran said, adding that the potential threat to public safety was the issue at hand.
To make his point, Moran cited an incident at a local television station late Thursday. Jones was leaving the studios at WJBK-TV 2 when his gun accidentally fired while getting into a car that had transported him to the station. No one was injured.
Moran also showed footage from the TV show “Good Morning America,” in which Jones was asked if he was willing to die for his actions and what he believed, and the pastor answered that he was.
Sapp responded by saying there has been no violent activity at any of his church’s previous demonstrations, despite taking place in locations where violence could have occurred. While testifying on his own behalf, Jones said free speech isn’t always popular.
“Freedom of speech does no good if it confines me to saying what other people like,” he said. Somers offered Jones the opportunity to choose among four different “free speech zones” around the city where people can stage a protest without having to apply for a permit. Jones declined, calling the zones “absolutely ridiculous,” and saying the “actual free speech zone” covers the entire country.
The trial was still in progress as the Times-Herald went to press.
Rana Elmir, spokeswoman for the ACLU of Michigan, said her group disagrees with Jones’ message, but that he still has the right to speak freely, and the peace bond is an attempt to stifle that right.
“You cannot put a price on free speech,” she said.
Jones has said throughout the week that the city’s denial of a permit would not dissuade him from protesting.
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected])