by Steven Ertelt
December 4, 2007
Atlanta, GA (LifeNews.com) — Gwinnett County Police Department officials have dropped the charges originally filed against pro-life advocate Bob Roethlisberger, a Missouri man arrested for driving a truck with graphic abortion pictures around a suburban shopping mall after Thanksgiving.
Roethlisberger was originally arrested and jailed on the charge of "Disorderly Conduct" for driving the vehicle.
He was arrested by police officers after they stopped the vehicle and told him violated a city provision referring to "the display of obscene and vulgar images visible to persons under age 14."
Gwinnett County Solicitor Rosanna Szabo told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she "administratively dismissed" the disorderly conduct charge.
"I have reviewed the evidence and law in this case, and concluded that the physical display of the images in question — as shocking and offensive as they are — does not constitute ‘obscene and vulgar or profane language’ as specifically prohibited by this statute," she said.
The case against Roethlisberger may be over but Troy Newman, the head of Operation Rescue, which owns the truck in question, said the legal battle is only beginning. He indicated the pro-life group plans to sue the county.
"This is just begun," Newman told the newspaper.
"We have an issue here where in the light of day, police will drop charges and say they suspended all arrests in this issue. But if you’re found at night or seemingly acting alone, it’s open season on constitutional freedoms," he added.
Part of the reason for a lawsuit is to recover the damages done to the truck and the costly banners which adorn its sides and rear.
Newman previously told LifeNews.com he is very upset that local police would destroy the group’s property and violate Roethlisberger’s free speech rights.
"Bob fully cooperated with officers, but refused to compromise on his message, which is unequivocally protected by the First Amendment," he said. "The officers misused their authority to punish Bob for expressing a viewpoint that ran counter to theirs. The arrest was nothing less than an egregious abuse of power."
Newman said the pro-life group got the vehicle out of police impound but indicated officials did thousands of dollars worth of damage to the truck and the banners.
Newman also told LifeNews.com that his group presented police with a letter from the American Center for Law and Justice.
In the letter, attorney Jim Henderson explained in detail to Gwinnett County Police why their officers acted improperly during the incident. Reimbursement of costs and an apology were requested.
Newman said the truck was in Georgia to highlight a new state initiative seeking to establish personhood for unborn children in the state.