The hearing is an opportunity for Sidney Allen Elyea to dispute a civil charge that he violated a city ordinance prohibiting the posting of materials on fixtures. Elyea faces two civil charges that each carry a maximum fine of $250.
Elyea has admitted posting the drawings and said he did so to educate others about Islam. The city charged Elyea through the civil process after county attorneys in Benton and Stearns counties declined to file criminal charges of obscenity or defamation against him, saying that what he posted was protected speech.
Elyea’s attorney has echoed that opinion, adding previously that Elyea was protesting in a nonviolent manner and that the city’s ordinance encourages arbitrary enforcement and is void because it’s vague.
“Given what our Supreme Court has done to protect the right to free speech, it baffles me that the government has not dismissed this case,” Attorney Ryan Garry said Friday. “The city attorney’s office should be charging and citing residents for the crimes they commit, not for the opinions they have.”
Elyea declined the opportunity to mediate the case, and instead will argue his case to an administrative hearing officer. The hearing might not be necessary if both sides agree to the facts of the case and there is no need to call witnesses. In that case, attorneys will submit written arguments to the hearing officer.
Local attorney Russ Cherne will preside as hearing officer.
The drawings that Elyea posted contained explicit depictions of bestiality and sodomy, contained images of the Prophet Muhammad in derogatory positions and contained pictures and words offensive to Muslims in particular.
One set of the drawings was found posted on a telephone pole outside a Somali-owned business in east St. Cloud. Other copies were found in other parts of the city.