Kitsap County Sheriff’s Deputies and Criminal Prosecutors agreed to take free speech training and make policy changes, in a settlement with a Kingston activist jailed on July 4, 2019 for refusing to remove signs he was holding in a public park.
The County and Port of Kingston also paid Robin Horon, 73, a total of $ 400,000 – $ 250,000 from the county and $ 150,000 from the port – after he alleged a multitude of constitutional rights violations in a lawsuit before a US district court for being twice jailed, held on “excessive” bail and “forever” banned from the port park, according to the settlement agreement finalized last month.
In addition to the formation of the First Amendment, the county agreed to institute a bail schedule – to prevent MPs from setting a disproportionate bail when they register a suspect in Kitsap County Jail – and to revise its intrusion policy to allow a person to appeal their ban.
Hordon said he didn’t think the lawsuit would bring in much or no money, he did so on principle.
“I defended the proper functioning of the Constitution,” he declared. “I refuse to give up my First Amendment rights. Then what happened after that was they dug their own financial hole. “
He added: “I don’t think so” cha-ching. “”
Hordon’s attorney, Joe Schaeffer, said that while the settlement includes language that local authorities do not admit to wrongdoing, the fact that the deal includes promises of policy change is tantamount to admitting ” tacit “that Hordon’s rights were violated. These policy changes were a victory for Hordon, Schaeffer said.
“It’s meaningful to him,” Schaeffer said. “It goes beyond it and improves the system for everyone, quite frankly, including the police. For me personally, this is a rare case where we see a significant and substantial policy change. “
Horon – a staple in North Kitsap and known for his in-house signs advocating a range of liberal positions including anti-militarism, feminism and environmental stewardship – brought his signs to the July 4, 2019 celebration in Kingston at Mike Wallace Park at the port. The largest of the signs, about six feet in diameter, read “Protect the Vote for Democracy” on one side and “Save the Earth” on the other.
Hordon calls the signs “temporary free speech displays” and calls his activism “civilian information.” He intends to spark conversation with the signs and steer clear of confrontational tactics.
Port officials have claimed they have the exclusive power to decide which signs are displayed in the public park and have called MPs after Hordon refused to remove the signs from where he was standing.
MPs, who wrote in court documents that they consulted a deputy prosecutor, arrested Horon for obstructing a police officer.
Although Hordon has no criminal history and was arrested for a non-violent offense, the MP set his bail at $ 50,000. Hordon couldn’t find the money and had to stay in jail overnight until a judge released him the next day.
Horon was arrested again at the park two weeks later when he was charged with twice breaking the “forever” ban by visiting the park to take photos in his defense.
He was arrested again and held on bail, which led to another night in jail.
Prosecutors charged Horon with three counts of second degree criminal trespassing, but then backed down and dismissed the charges. The trespassing order banning him from visiting the park has since been quashed.
Schaeffer said the port quickly recognized it was wrong and changed its policy. In November, the port settled its part of the lawsuit.
“The port did the right thing and admitted its mistakes,” he said.
Sheriff Gary Simpson said he was happy to correct any issues revealed by the incident and said he wanted to institute a jail bail schedule to reduce the burden on MPs.
Although the settlement agreement specified that the bail schedule would apply to MPs, Simpson said he expected a task force made up of prosecutors, lawyers from the Defense and others extend the schedule to all officers registering suspects in jail.
Before taking legal action, Horon wrote to Simpson asking him to review the trespassing policy – as it didn’t allow people to challenge it in court – but Simpson refused. Simpson said he received numerous letters asking him to consider matters outside of his powers and responded to Hordon in accordance with what he believed to be the law.
However, Simpson said he was disappointed that the issues were resolved through a lawsuit. In addition, he said he felt the port started the conflict by calling on MPs to impeach Hordon, and then he settled his part of the lawsuit, leaving the county to fend for itself with the lawsuit.
“They threw us under the bus,” Simpson said. “Instead of working with us and finding a suitable solution, they did their thing and left us hanging.”
Kitsap County District Attorney Chad Enright, whose office advised park deputies and represented the county in the lawsuit, said the issue started with harbor workers and involved confusion over whether the park was public property.
“I think what happened was that the sheriff’s deputies at the scene received the wrong information from those present that day, and that wrong information was passed on to the deputy prosecutor at the time. ‘call, and you end up with bad advice, ”Enright mentioned.
He noted that harbor workers and deputies told Horon to move to another location in the park, which Enright called a “compromise,” and Horon refused.
“They couldn’t find a compromise and with the wrong information we get a bad result,” he said.
An email from Kitsap Sun to the Harbor Authority and Harbor Commissioners Mary McClure, Laura Gronnvoll and Steve Heacock did not elicit a response.
In recent years, after further allegations arose that officials were not observing the law, the port had to pay $ 252,000 in 2018 and $ 166,000 in 2017 for lawsuits under the Public Records Act.
Hordon said the settlement money had helped him, but stressed that it was not what he was looking for.
“I am surprised to have received so much money, but the most essential for me is why I stood out and why I do what I do is to improve democracy, without a doubt.” , did he declare.