This is a partial image of the sexually explicit stickers on Dean Young’s vehicle that are at the center of a free-speech battle. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer
Dean Young says he will continue to display a pair of cartoon stickers depicting bare-breasted she-devils on the windows of his banana Yellow Ford Focus despite being warned in court he will face prosecution.
Young has 30 days to change his mind, according to the district attorney’s office.
Police and prosecutors say the stickers, which appear to show the characters in sexually explicit positions, violate a little-used state law prohibiting the distribution of harmful, sexually oriented material to children.
Young and the American Civil Liberties Union beg to differ, saying his First Amendment rights to freedom of expression are under attack.
The misdemeanor case filed against the 31-year-old waiter hit a snag Friday when a judge dismissed the case because of a procedural error.
Judge Buddy Hall said Young wasn’t given adequate notice that the stickers posted on his car were offensive.
Under law, Young has 30 days to bring the graphic before the judge so the judge can determine if the material is harmful to a minor. Young also has the option of removing the stickers altogether, which would render the issue moot.
District Attorney Matt Chandler said if Young doesn’t comply and bring the stickers before the judge or take them off his car, the state will refile the charges and proceed with the prosecution.
“It’s my understanding that the police department received complaints from citizens who had viewed the graphic,” Chandler said.
Young was charged in December with distribution of sexually oriented material to minors for placing two provocative stickers on his car.
Young said on Friday the stickers will remain on his car. He added that he will “absolutely” be taking this issue forward.
The misdemeanor charge Young faces carries a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Meanwhile, the ACLU has decided to take the case.
“The judge said the proper remedy is to give him the actual notice and let him seek judicial review of whether or not the material was offensive or remedy it,” said George Bach, Young’s attorney from the ACLU.
Bach added that after looking at the statute in question, he doesn’t believe that Young broke the law.
“The courts of New Mexico have interpreted the free speech clause of the New Mexico constitution in a way that material really needs to be intolerable for it to be restricted, and we believe that Mr. Young’s sticker passes that test,” Bach said.
Peter Simonson, also with the ACLU, said he hopes prosecutors take a close look at the statute and make a reasoned determination about whether he has violated state law.
Chandler said Saturday he’s already taken a close look at the statute.
“It is in fact against the law to post a graphic or a picture that could be harmful to a minor if it is distributed or displayed where a minor could see it,” Chandler said. “ I have seen the image and I have no doubt that the image could be determined offensive to a minor.”
Simonson said Young may have a potential civil suit against the Clovis police if the case plays out in his favor.
“I think the public rarely appreciates all someone sacrifices when they take part in a legal process to defend their rights,” Simonson said. “It’s no small commitment for him to go through a legal proceeding like this.”
Authorities have said a Clovis police detective’s young son saw the stickers on Young’s car at a Clovis restaurant in December, which led to the allegation of distributing sexually oriented material to minors.
Chandler said the police aren’t singling out Young, but simply doing their job.
“They have the duty to uphold the law,” he said.