A judge found a Martinsville man not guilty of littering after he left a copy of a Ku Klux Klan newspaper at a local business.
Thomas Buhls left a copy of "The Crusader" at Steve's Appliances in Martinsville. Owner Mary Waltz said she didnt want the newspaper in her store, so she called police.
"I think it's trash. That newspaper aims hatred to people who are my friends, and to me, hatred is trash," Waltz said.
Judge Mark Peden ruled after a 40-minute bench trial that although Buhls' actions may unnerve the people within his community, he still has the right to distribute the incendiary material, RTV6's Rick Hightower
Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega believed he had a strong case and tried to classify the newspaper as refuse.
"Obviously, the judge disagreed that a newspaper isn't considered trash because the littering statute only deals with refuse. I guess there's no recourse for this case or in the future other than for the business owner to throw the items away, which is what she did," Sonnega said.
Ken Falk, who represents the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, said the case tested the First Amendment.
"The First Amendment makes it clear that it's OK to hand out all sorts of materials. The whole point by the First Amendment is that we have the right for freedom of ideas," Falk said. "The Supreme Court says I have a right to go onto people's property and try and talk to them about things."
Buhls declined to comment on the issue.
"I have no comment to make right now. I have a comment that will be given out from the national headquarters in Harrison, Ark.," Buhls said.
"The Crusader" was found in other areas of Martinsville within the past year. It also appeared in Rush County.
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