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PJI Defends Street Preacher

Las Vegas, NV—A street preacher who faced up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000 for exercising his First Amendment rights received justice recently when a local court dismissed his case.

Ron Cardiel, a Washington state resident who frequently travels to Las Vegas to preach the gospel on the sidewalks of the famed Las Vegas Strip, was charged in April with violating a Clark County ordinance that prohibits obstruction of sidewalks. Cardiel—aka “Brother Ron”—was not actually standing on the sidewalk, but near it. Pedestrians freely moved past him with ease, rarely if ever needing to sidestep around him.

Still, an officer from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department decided that because Cardiel was standing in one place instead of traversing the sidewalk, Cardiel was obstructing the sidewalk. The officer and three of his fellow officers ganged up on Cardiel and demanded that he move along. When Cardiel refused, correctly asserting that the sidewalk was a public forum where he was free to practice his First Amendment freedoms of religion and free speech, the officer cited him for a misdemeanor.

Cardiel sought help from the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a non-profit law firm devoted to defending religious liberties. PJI staff attorney Ray Hacke and affiliate attorney Day Williams flew down to Las Vegas to defend Cardiel at his criminal trial, which was scheduled for August 30.

The ordinance that Cardiel was cited under was unconstitutionally vague and overbroad and it didn’t define what constitutes ‘obstruction’—leaving it to the eye of the beholding officer to enforce it in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion, which is exactly what happened to Brother Ron.

The ordinance was also overbroad because it effectively prohibited people from engaging in free speech on the sidewalks of the Strip. PJI consequently submitted a motion to the Las Vegas Regional Justice Center to dismiss Brother Ron’s case. The Clark County District Attorney ultimately moved for dismissal, which was granted, soon after the case was called.

“What happened to Brother Ron was beyond ridiculous,” PJI president Brad Dacus said. “The last time I checked, the First Amendment still protects the freedom of individuals to share their faith in public. PJI exists in part to defend that right, and I’m glad the Clark County D.A. had the good sense to dismiss Brother Ron’s case because he never should have been charged in the first place.” Dacus further encouraged street preachers nationwide to contact PJI if they find themselves in need of defense in criminal cases involving their First Amendment rights.

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