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UPDATE: Fort Bend Driver With Anti-Trump Message Released From Jail, After Being Arrested On Outstanding Warrant

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls on Wednesday posted a photo of the truck message on Facebook alongside a request to speak with the driver.

Fort Bend Sheriff Troy Nehls said on November 15th, 2017 that he was hoping to have a “meaningful dialogue” with the driver about the expletives and the confrontational tone of the message of the truck.

The driver of a truck displaying an expletive filled message against President Donald Trump was arrested for an outstanding warrant from August, according to KHOU. She has since been released, and said the circumstances of her arrest are suspicious to her.

“People abuse the badge, in my opinion, and money talks,” Fonseca told a gaggle of reporters, after her release from the county jail. “Money on that end, and people with money, on the other end.”

“The arrest of Karen Fonseca was for an outstanding Felony Warrant arising out of an investigation conducted by the Rosenberg Police Department. The only connection between her arrest and her decision to drive around with an obscenity displayed on her vehicle was the fact that it lead us to her name which in turn revealed the existence of this Felony warrant. Once this connection was made, personnel did their job in a professional and appropriate manner by serving this Felony warrant,” said via email Caitilin Espinosa, PIO Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.

Karen Fonseca said she’d been stopped by law officers, but that they had no grounds to issue a citation.

“It’s not to cause hate or animosity,” the 46-year-old Fonseca told the Houston Chronicle. “It’s just our freedom of speech and we’re exercising it.”

Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office
Karen Fonseca, 46, was arrested for an outstanding warrant, related to fraud.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls on Wednesday posted a photo of the truck message on Facebook alongside a request to speak with the driver.

Nehls in his post said that a county prosecutor told him the message could warrant a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. But at a news conference later Wednesday, he seemed to back away from that idea. Nehls said he supports freedom of speech but worried that profane messages could incite others and lead to confrontations that would disturb the peace he’s pledged to keep.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office said Thursday that Nehls’ post was removed once the pickup driver was identified.

“Due to the hate messages he has been receiving toward his wife and children, the sheriff will not be commenting on the matter further,” spokeswoman Caitilin Espinosa said by email.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas posted on Facebook that Fonseca’s message is protected speech and urged her to reach out to the organization. The ACLU noted a 1971 U.S. Supreme Court case that overturned the conviction of a man for disturbing the peace for wearing a jacket with an expletive as part of an effort to protest the military draft and the Vietnam War.

A woman who raised her middle finger in October to Trump’s motorcade as it passed her in Virginia was fired from a government contracting firm for violating the “code of conduct policy.” But the Texas case differs in that a government entity threatened punitive action for vulgar material directed at the president.

Lynne Rambo, a law professor at Texas A&M University specializing in the First Amendment, said Thursday that the 1971 Supreme Court case made two points clear: the state’s attempt to regulate profanity or civil discourse is not a sufficient reason to justify restricting speech, and profane language directed at a specific person is different from vulgar content that’s broadly disseminated.

“It’s state action to threaten as (Nehls) did and he really ought to know First Amendment law better than that,” Rambo said.

Fonseca says the message has been on the rear window of the pickup for nearly a year and it’ll stay there for the time-being.

“There’s no law against freedom of speech, nothing in the law book here in Texas,” she told KHOU-TV in Houston. “I’ve been stopped numerous times, but they can’t write me a ticket.”

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