Kent man’s littering charge dismissed

Amadeus Smith

The City of Kent yesterday dismissed all littering charges against a man who put up an anti-Bush sign.

Kevin Egler, 45, posted an “Impeach Bush” sign in a grassy area at the intersection of East Main Street, Willow Street and Haymaker Parkway in July.

In the arraignment, Egler agreed not

to post any additional signs without permission in order for the charges to be dismissed.

“Basically they let me off with a warning,” said Egler, who substitute teaches in the Kent school district.

Jim Silver, city prosecutor for the case, declined to comment on the city’s reasoning behind the dismissal.

The littering charge followed an original advertising on public property charge, which came two days after Egler was pulled over for posting the sign.

At a pre-trial hearing on Aug. 9, Silver, who is also Kent’s law director, said the advertising charges would be dropped if Egler pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and pay a $25 fine. If he didn’t plead guilty, the charge would be filed again as a littering charge.

Littering is a third-degree misdemeanor that carries a maximum fine of $500 and a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail. This is a step up from advertising, which has a maximum fine of $150.

“It was basically my choice at the time to not plead guilty to anything,” Egler said.

He maintains the city is not concerned with littering as much as it is with the content of the sign.

“It’s obviously the message they object to,” he said.

But Silver said the content wasn’t the reason behind the charge. He said Egler was charged because he violated the littering ordinance.

“You can put a sign wherever you want as long as you have the property owner’s permission,” he said.

In addition to violating the ordinance, Silver said he was charged because he committed the offense in front of the officer, noting it was committed between 1 and 2 in the morning. Others who have been charged with littering for posting a sign without permission were all caught in the act.

He said in any other case, “it’s not worth police effort to track down.”

The dismissal, at least for Egler, doesn’t close the case.

Egler’s attorney Robert Fitrakis said the charge violated Egler’s First Amendment rights.

Egler plans to bring the issue of free political speech to city council to attempt to develop an ordinance that would generate equal protection for both commercial and political speech.

“I know that they cannot criminalize political speech if they are not going to criminalize commercial speech,” Egler said.

Contact city editor Amadeus Smith at [email protected].