The NYCLU hailed today’s decision by District Attorney Robert Morgenthau to dismiss criminal charges filed against a man for controversial pubic expression that took place in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center.
William Harvey, who was represented by the Legal Aid Society, was arrested on October 4, 2001, and charged with disorderly conduct after he displayed a sign with the image of Osama Bin Laden’s face imposed on a depiction of the World Trade Center and distributed leaflets at a public intersection in Manhattan not far from the World Trade Center site. As a result of this activity, a crowd gathered at the intersection, and Mr. Harvey was threatened by certain members of the crowd. Rather than disperse the crowd or arrest those threatening Mr. Harvey, the police arrested Mr. Harvey and charged him with disorderly conduct.
In January 2002 a criminal court judge rejected a motion by the Legal Aid Society to dismiss the charges on the grounds that Mr. Harvey’s activity was protected by the First Amendment. At that time, NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman was quoted in the New York Law Journal as saying, “This is a decision that cannot be allowed to stand.” The Legal Aid Society continued its efforts to have the case dismissed, and the District Attorney’s office this morning agreed to dismiss the charges against Mr. Harvey.
“We commend the District Attorney for dismissing this case,” said Lieberman today. “Regardless of how controversial speech may be, it is protected by the First Amendment.”