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No First Amendment protection for man who disrupted council meeting

A Roanoke man who was booted from a city council meeting and convicted of disorderly conduct gets no relief today from the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Duane Howard had earned a reputation as a government gadfly, a reputation no doubt enhanced when he shouted “Let him speak!” when the mayor tried to admonish another citizen at a public forum in 2005.  Howard conceded the mayor had the right to have him tossed from that city council meeting.  Howard objected, however, to his conviction for disorderly conduct.  Raising his voice at a public meeting should not subject him to criminal penalties, he argued.

Maybe so, the Supreme Court said, but refusing to leave when asked was all the disorderly conduct necessary to sustain Howard’s conviction, according to the opinion in Howard v. Commonwealth, authored by Senior Justice Harry L. Carrico.

By Peter Vieth

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