Pasadena, CA. Today, three federal appellate judges in the Ninth Circuit issued a final ruling in favor of a Christian man, Mark Mackey, who was arrested for reading the Bible aloud in front of the California Department of Motor Vehicles in Hemet, CA in 2011. Read the ruling here.
The CHP Officer, Darren Meyers, erroneously cited Mr. Mackey for violating a state law that forbids the interference with an open business through obstruction and intimidation. The Ninth Circuit rebuked the officer’s fabricated claims in his police report:
Upon arrival, Meyer encountered Mackey reading his bible aloud in a dirt patch, neither obstructing nor intimidating anyone in line. Meyer avers that Mackey was “yelling at the people waiting in line,” “that there was obvious verbal confrontation between the group of men and the people standing in line,” and that the “confrontation was heated and nearing a physical state.” That version of events is completely belied by video and audio footage which does not reveal any confrontations whatsoever, and merely shows Mackey reading the bible aloud somewhat apart from people standing in line.
Representing Mr. Mackey, Advocates for Faith & Freedom filed a federal lawsuit for unlawful arrest arguing the officer had no basis or probable cause to arrest Mr. Mackey. Mr. Mackey offered to dismiss his suit if the CHP simply admitted the arrest was unlawful and agreed to properly instruct its officers. The CHP rejected that offer and Mr. Mackey was instead criminally prosecuted in California state court in the County of Riverside.
View our previous press release that outlines the facts and charges.
However, Mr. Mackey prevailed in the criminal prosecution and was found not guilty of the charges. Thereafter, Mr. Mackey’s federal case continued ending up in the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeal.
Robert Tyler, who argued in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of Mr. Mackey, stated, “An innocent man exercising his religious liberty and free speech was criminally prosecuted based on erroneous claims put forth by a false and deceitful police report. It appears to me that the arrest and prosecution of my client was politically motivated because they did not agree with my client’s speech. But that is exactly why our founders created the First Amendment – to protect even disagreeable speech. Today’s decision renews my hope in the justice system.”
Mark Mackey stated, “Justice still prevails. I am excited that our country is going in the right direction.”
Co-counsel and volunteer criminal defense attorney Nic Cocis commented, “It is refreshing to know that our system still works. The video evidence clearly contradicted the claims of the officer, but it took our appeal to the Ninth Circuit before justice could be realized. The officer and the CHP should be held accountable for their disregard of constitutional liberties.”
NINTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS, Case No. 15-55186
Advocates for Faith & Freedom is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts. You can visit our website at www.faith-freedom.com.