I-Team: First Amendment fight continues in Boulder City

Local News

Remember the great crosswalk crackdown of Boulder City?  This week was supposed to see a courtroom showdown to decide whether Boulder City went too far in prosecuting one man’s non-violent protest action.

The protest became a criminal case, then morphed into a gag order.

I don’t really know what happened there. The judge has set today for a hearing, and we were prepared for a hearing,” said attorney Stephen Stubbs.

He has spent almost two years preparing for the courtroom showdown that was supposed to happen Tuesday, Aug. 14. He and his client will have to wait a bit longer.

The case of the great pedestrian protest stems from a 2016 sting operation on Boulder City’ s main drag. Police assigned an operative to saunter back and forth in a crosswalk. Any motorists who didn’t stop were chased and ticketed. One of them, John Hunt, responded by staging a one-man protest in which he walked back and forth across the street three times in one minute. That was more than enough for Boulder City Sgt. John Glenn.

The officer can be heard saying.

“Come over here, come over here. Because I said so.”

Other law enforcement converged, and the pedestrian protester was taken down, then taken to jail. In his official report, Sgt. Glenn claimed the suspect had caused motorists to slam on their brakes. Video recordings showed that never happened. After Hunt hired Stubbs to investigate the matter, city attorney Dave Olsen dropped the charges.

A year later, they were reinstated after Hunt filed a suit against the city. Stubbs argued the city was prosecuting Hunt for exercising his First Amendment rights but Stubbs’ comment on Facebook prompted Boulder city’s only judge Victor Millerto to issue a gag order, telling Stubbs, his client, and his client’s father than they were not allowed to make any public comments about the case.

Stubbs had the gag order overturned in district court and got the judge to recuse himself. A substitute judge, Margaret Whittaker, was assigned to hear arguments whether both the police and city attorneys office had lied about how the case was handled, but when all the parties arrived Tuesday morning.

“She called for a hearing. We prepared for a hearing. Both sides were prepared for the hearing. She called the case and before the other side could even come into the courtroom, she said, ‘I’m not doing the hearing, you’re guilty on four counts,'” Stubbs said.

The deputy city attorney handling the case was stunned because he had not taken a seat so he asked Judge Whittaker what she meant. City attorney Stephen Morris said it wasn’t a surprise to him though.

“We were expecting the judge to give the ruling today, which she did, and we’re satisfied with the result.”

“Judge Miller already had to recuse himself for unethical behavior so the fix is in in Boulder City, the fix is in. So, now we’ll go to an impartial court. We’re filing our appeal today,” Stubbs said.

A spokesman for Boulder City, issued the following statement:

The City of Boulder City is satisfied with the court’s decision that found Mr. John Hunt guilty on charges related to his crosswalk protest against a police sanctioned enforcement activity.  The City encourages and upholds every individual’s freedom to exercise rights protected by the First Amendment, provided it does not infringe upon the rights of others in violation of established law.   The City is proud of the way the Police Department and City Attorney’s office conducted themselves during the course of this case, and the City looks forward to working with the citizens of Boulder City to ensure the proper exercise and protection of all Constitutional rights.

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