Archive for Saturday, October 22, 1994


October 22, 1994


A Douglas County judge says she wasn't convinced that Stephen Lacoss acted illegally when he threw water near a group of protesters.

A Lawrence man who threw a bucket of water on Topeka minister and anti-homosexual activist Fred Phelps in April at Kansas University was acquitted Friday on a charge of disorderly conduct.

In a Douglas County District Court appeal, Stephen Lacoss, 25, successfully overturned a municipal court judge's 90-day suspended jail sentence and $75 fine and court costs order. Lacoss also was acquitted in municipal court of misdemeanor battery.

In Friday's appeal -- essentially a rehearing of all the facts in the case -- District Judge Paula Martin said she could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that Lacoss had intended to cause alarm, anger or resentment to Phelps and his anti-homosexual protesters.

The decision means Lacoss will not have to pay fines or court costs.

"I have no regrets myself ... other than taking (Phelps) as seriously as I did," Lacoss said after the ruling. "He's just not worth it -- he's so out there."

Phelps left the courtroom immediately after Martin's decision was made.

According to testimony, Lacoss stopped his car in the street near Phelps and about 15 other anti-homosexual protesters who were demonstrating in front of the Kansas Union during KU's Gay and Lesbian Awareness Week.

Lacoss took a bucket of water, waked over to the protesters and threw it in their direction while he was 15 or 20 feet away, according to testimony.

Phelps testified he was hit by the water on his left side.

Phelps said he was "very apprehensive, startled and a little afraid" when Lacoss threw the water.

City prosecutor Tom Porter argued that Lacoss became angry when he initially drove by the protesters, put water in the bucket, returned and threw it at demonstrators to try and disrupt their protest.

Lacoss said he wasn't trying to stop the protest, but threw the water as a counter-protest.

"If I wanted to take the bucket and pour water on someone, I certainly could have, very easily," he said.

"I think this was very much like burning the flag," Lacoss' attorney, Don Strole said after the verdict. "I've very glad that the judge recognized that."

Strole argued that Lacoss' actions had no effect on the protest.

"I think he (Phelps) really likes when things like this happen, it's what he wants," Strole said.

Porter said the city will take no further action in the case.

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