Housewife jailed for advocating Official English
Case tests city's speech ordinance
By Michael G. Walsh, The Muskegon Chronicle, Saturday, August 12, 2000
MANISTEE... It was a little past 11 a.m. on an August day in 1998 when [Janice] Barton, 45, was leaving the Peppermill Restaurant in this Lake Michigan shoreline community with her mother and daughter. As Barton and her family tried to make their way through the crowd, a man - in Spanish - asked his wife to make room for them.
Barton, who does not understand Spanish, told her mother: "I wish these damned 'spics' would learn to speak English."
Carol Benitez, one of the Spanish speakers and an off-duty Manistee County Sheriff's deputy, followed Barton outside and copied her license plate number...
Almost two weeks later, Barton was charged with disturbing the peace. But when she appeared in court Oct. 13, 1998, Barton was charged with "insulting conduct in a public place." In court that December, Barton testified that she thinks immigrants should speak English when in the United States....
The district court jury agreed with the judge that Barton's words were "fighting words" - not free speech - and convicted her of the misdemeanor.
.... The housewife was sent to jail for 45 days, but released four days later after her attorney worked out an unusual deal: The jury verdict would be vacated and she would plead guilty and be freed - as long as she dropped all appeal rights...
(Nevertheless, Ms. Barton is now appealing. The full story is currently available at http://mu.mlive.com/news/index.ssf?/
 Note there is no suggestion that Ms. Barton (female! middle-aged!! accompanied by her daughter and mother!!!) actually attacked or even threatened to attack anyone.
 In fact, amazingly, everyone agrees that any potential violence would come from the Hispanics. The advocates of Ms. Barton's conviction actually assert this:
"John Roy Castillo, former director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the Detroit Human Rights Department [whatever that is], said Barton's comment not only was offensive, it likely could have sparked a fight.... "I'm nonviolent, but I might have confronted her and who knows the personality of that person," said Castillo, who is of Mexican descent."
In other words, because today's immigrants come from a violent political culture with no tradition of free speech, an American must go to jail.
August 19, 2000