FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas - A Texas sheriff is getting angry feedback from free speech advocates after he wrote a Facebook post, which has since been deleted, threatening charges against a driver for a profane anti-Trump sticker on the window of her truck.
Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy E. Nehls posted a photo on his Facebook page Wednesday that showed a white GMC Sierra with a window decal that reads, “(EXPLETIVE) TRUMP AND (EXPLETIVE) YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM.” The photo shared by Nehls was censored to block a portion of the offending word.
Similar images found online indicate that Nehls also blocked out a middle finger aimed at those reading the sticker.
In Nehls’ now-deleted post, which was saved and shared by the ACLU, the sheriff asked anyone who knows the owner of the truck to contact his office.
“I have received numerous calls regarding the offensive display on this truck, as it is often seen along FM 359,” Nehls wrote. “Our prosecutor has informed us she would accept disorderly conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it.”
The ACLU, in turn, asked the driver of the truck to contact the ACLU of Texas.
“No, Sheriff Troy E. Nehls, you can’t prosecute speech just because it contains words you don’t like,” the ACLU’s post read.
The Texas branch of the organization also spoke out, posting on Facebook details of the constitutional protections for profane and indecent speech.
“Constitutional Law 101: You can’t ban speech just because it has (expletive) in it,” the post read. “Hey truck owner, feel free to contact the ACLU of Texas.”
The driver of the truck, Karen Fonseca, did reach out to the Houston Chronicle. Fonseca, 46, said the truck is her husband’s, but she often drives it.
She also said she used to work for Nehls in the county jail.
Fonseca told the Chronicle that the sticker attracted plenty of attention even before the sheriff learned of it. People often honk their horns and take pictures.
“It’s not to cause hate or animosity,” Fonseca told the newspaper. “It’s just our freedom of speech, and we’re exercising it.”
She said police officers have pulled her over because of the sticker, but that they failed to come up with a reason to ticket her. She said she has no plan to contact her former boss about modifying the sticker.
Fort Bend District Attorney John Healey told the Chronicle that the sticker does not constitute a criminal offense, no matter what one of his own prosecutors may have told Nehls.
“I did not believe it was a prosecutable case based on the definition of disorderly conduct,” Healey said.
Both Healey and Nehls are Republicans, the Chronicle reported. Though Healey is not running for re-election, Nehls is considering a bid for Congress.
The sheriff said his concern was that the language on the sticker could cause a dangerous confrontation.
“Many families have called that have seen that truck on our county roadways and are very offended by the language on the truck,” Nehls said. “I think they’re walking a fine line.”