The attorney for a Willmar man who is accused of harassing a Somali woman with a pig’s foot says what he did is protected free speech under the U.S. Constitution.
Joseph Fernkes, age 61, is charged with Disorderly Conduct for the incident that occurred August 12th at the Willmar Farmers’ Market in the YMCA parking lot. Fernkes, who admits he does not like Somalis, placed a pickled pig’s foot on a table where a group of Somalis were selling vegetables. Muslims are prohbitted from touching swine. Fernkes says he then flashed them the middle finger and left in his motorized wheelchair.
In a memorandum filed in Kandiyohi County District Court October 5th, his attorney John Mack of New London said Minnesota’s statute regarding disorderly conduct is unconstitutionaly vague, and Fernkes’ acts are protected by the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing free speech.
In his memorandum, Mack wrote Fernkes did not breach the peace and was not trying to provoke a fight. Mack said this type of act might lead to a beheading in Saudi Arabia, but he said “tolerance for this kind of disgusting speech act helps make America a free country.”
A pre-trial hearing on the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge took place Tuesday afternoon before Judge Michael Thompson and was continued in order for the attorney for The City of Willmar, Carlotta Navarrette, to have more time to examine Mack’s memorandum and motion to dismiss.
(JP Cola, KWLM)