Alleged pride parade saboteurs plead innocent

BY admin

August 02 2004 11:00 PM ET

A cattle farmer who acknowledged spreading manure along the route of a gay pride parade in Arkansas pleaded innocent to a misdemeanor harassment charge Monday after saying he was exercising a constitutional right. Separately, two radio station employees who prosecutors say gave gay pornography to a 16-year-old boy along the parade route pleaded innocent in Faulkner County circuit court to felony charges of distributing obscene material. "I don't feel as though I've done anything wrong," Christine Brown, a former employee at Little Rock radio station KABZ-FM, said after her arraignment. She called the legal process "very overwhelming."

Wesley Bono, 35, of Greenbrier, faces trial September 16 in Conway district court on accusations of dumping 6,000 pounds of manure in front of a gay couple's home June 27 and spreading it along two city streets. Bono told television station KATV before his court appearance that he was exercising his free speech rights when he spread the manure. "Under the First Amendment a man is allowed to protest. That's what I was doing," Bono said. "I didn't do it as a hate crime or any crime at all." Conway officials have not said how much it cost them to clean up the mess.

In the obscenity case, Brown and Phillip Beard are accused of handing out obscene material in a case that drew attention because a boy received an X-rated DVD. The boy has said Beard, dressed only in a skimpy black swimsuit during the parade, gave him the video. Prosecutor H.G. Foster said he doubted Brown or Beard would do time. "This is an important case, but it's mostly important as a societal statement," Foster said. "There are very few who would disagree that when it comes to distribution of explicit materials, generally as a society, we think that's unacceptable." Arkansas has a separate charge for distribution of explicit material to minors, but Foster said it was more appropriate to charge the pair under the state's general obscenity statute. Penalties for both offenses are the same: fines of up to $2,000 and a maximum of five years in prison. The radio station canceled Brown and Beard's show and later said the pair no longer worked there. After pleading innocent, Brown and Beard were scheduled for a pretrial hearing September 17 and a trial the week of October 5 before circuit judge Charles E.
Clawson Jr. Beard did not comment beyond entering a plea.

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