RIVERSIDE (CBSLA.com) — Two Hemet church members who were arrested while reading the Bible outside a DMV office were expected to be in court when their trial begins Monday.
Brett Anthony Coronado, 42, of Reconciled Christian Fellowship in Hemet, and Mark Allen Mackey, 59, a Calvary Chapel Hemet church elder, visited the DMV at 1200 S. State Street on Feb. 2, 2011, before business hours and began to read passages from the Bible.
After a security guard approached Mackey and instructed him to leave the premises, the men continued reading, claiming their First Amendment rights protected their actions and that they were not interfering with any DMV business.
A video posted on YouTube shows the men were arrested shortly after that by California High Officer Darrin Meyer, who eventually cited them for “impeding an open business”.
Another member of the ministry, Edmond Flores, was also taken into custody, but was not charged.
Attorneys for the men argued that the penal code under which Coronado and Mackey were arrested is meant to protect businesses from protesters who intimidate patrons and block entrances, and since the DMV was not yet open at the time the men were reading, the citation had no merit.
“We believe that these men were exercising their First Amendment right of Free Speech,” attorney Robert Tyler with Advocates for Faith & Freedom. “These men were simply sharing their faith on public property, and we will defend their constitutional right to do so.”
According to attorneys, Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach later decided to charge the men with misdemeanor “trespassing” on state property.
Coronado, Mackey and Flores filed a civil liberties lawsuit in April 2011 alleging Meyer, and by extension the CHP, had violated their First, Fourth and 14th amendment rights, as well as violated the “liberty” clause of the California Constitution.
But U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee suspended further hearings on the lawsuit in September 2011 until the criminal case against Coronado and Mackey was resolved.
If convicted, Coronado and Mackey face up to 90 days in jail, or by a fine of up to $400, or both.
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