Jailed Over Christmas for Swearing
In December 2012 LaRue Ford, a social worker with no criminal record, attempted to take care of an unpaid traffic ticket from Berrien County so she could obtain an Indiana driver’s license. After getting the run-around for weeks over the phone, she drove to the district clerk’s office in Niles only to learn that she had to pay yet another fee. As she left the clerk’s office to go to an ATM, she swore to herself. Although LaRue had done nothing to disrupt the proceedings of the court, when she returned to pay her fine, a court officer escorted into the courtroom and Judge Dennis Wiley charged her with “contempt of court” for uttering a profanity. Judge Wiley set bond at $5000, which was more than her family could afford. Consequently, she spent more than a week in jail, including Christmas, until the ACLU of Michigan intervened and filed a successful emergency appeal to release Ms. Ford from jail. In January 2013 an appellate court dismissed the criminal charges against her. (People v. Ford; ACLU Attorney Miriam Aukerman; Cooperating Attorneys Megan Reynolds and John Targowski.)
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