"The fact that this arrest and prosecution happened… is just ridiculous," Mullkoff says. "People have a right to express themselves as our client did."
According to Mullkoff, New York's harassment law "has been on the books for decades… Several state and federal courts have said it's unconstitutional, but it keeps getting enforced," he adds with frustration.
In fact, a municipal judge in Fallsburg, N.Y., (about 11 miles from Liberty) threw out the harassment charge against Barboza, according to the Capitol Confidential blog.
Fallsburg Justice Ivan Kalter noted that Barboza's ticket comments were "crude, vulgar, inappropriate and clearly intended to annoy." In his decision Kalter wrote: "No citation is necessary for this Court to determine that the language under the circumstances here, offensive as it is, is protected."
Of course, if he'd wanted to, Kalter could have cited a 1997 federal court ruling that the New York harassment law was unconstitutional; or another 2003 federal judge's finding that police should quit arresting people just for saying annoying or offensive stuff; or a New York Court of Appeals decision saying the same.
So Mullkoff's NYCLU is taking up Barboza's cause, pursuing a federal lawsuit to have the harassment statute once again declared unconstitutional and to try and have it disposed of permanently. Mullkoff says Barboza is no longer commenting on the story because of the pending litigation.
So far, there's been no campaign in this state to have Connecticut's harassment law repealed, even though civil liberties activists like McGuire admit the statute has the potential for abuse. "It's clear the Connecticut law could be enforced in a way that would violate people's constitutional protections," McGuire says. "We think it's important for people in Connecticut to know they have the right to make statements that may be unpopular," he adds.
Like writing sweet little "fuck you" messages on speeding tickets, for example.