Topeka An anti-abortion leader is suing a legislator who was fined for assaulting him while he was protesting in a cockroach costume during last year's Kansas State Fair.
Troy Newman, president of the Wichita-based anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, alleges Rep. Vaughn Flora, D-Topeka, violated his free speech rights. The lawsuit, which calls Flora's conduct "socially outrageous, politically oppressive and beyond the bounds of decency which a civilized society should tolerate," seeks $75,000 in damages.
The incident occurred in September 2006, as Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat seeking her second term, was debating her Republican opponent at the fair before more than 2,000 spectators. Flora ripped Newman's mask off his face, leaving a 2-inch cut, according to the lawsuit.
Newman filed his lawsuit Friday in Shawnee County District Court. No hearings have been scheduled.
"We're looking at a situation here where a message is sent to a crowd of about 2,000 people that this how we deal with political dissent," Bryan Brown, Newman's attorney, said in an interview Monday. "It's a message that in Kansas, pro-life political dissent can be dealt with a smash to the face."
Flora did not immediately return a message left on his home. Last month, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge in Reno County and avoided a 30-day jail sentence by agreeing to pay a $100 fine and $128 in court costs by June 29.
Newman wore his cockroach costume to gubernatorial debates to publicize what he viewed as Sebelius' refusal to deal with substandard conditions in abortion clinics. Abortion foes have sought regulations targeting abortion clinics.