Archive for Monday, August 23, 2010

Nebraska prosecutors drop charges against Phelps-Roper

August 23, 2010, 10:04 a.m. Updated August 23, 2010, 1:21 p.m.


— A member of Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church agreed Monday to drop federal lawsuits against Nebraska authorities in exchange for a Nebraska prosecutor dismissing charges against her stemming from her 2007 protest outside a soldier's funeral.

Shirley Phelps-Roper had been scheduled to face trial in Sarpy County Court on Monday on charges of disturbing the peace and negligent child abuse. The trial was postponed after Phelps-Roper's attorney and Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov reached the last-minute deal.

Both sides signed the agreement Monday, but it won't become official until a judge signs it. This is expected to happen Aug. 31.

Prosecutors accused Phelps-Roper of allowing her 10-year-old son to stand on an American flag during a protest outside the funeral of a National Guardsman in Bellevue, an Omaha suburb. Authorities say she also wore a flag as a skirt that dragged on the ground.

Phelps-Roper has maintained that the charges were not warranted because she was executing her right to free speech and had been in compliance with a Bellevue permit for the protest. She pleaded not guilty and twice asked unsuccessfully for the case to be dismissed.

Under the terms of the deal, the 52-year-old Phelps-Roper agreed to drop two federal lawsuits against Nebraska authorities related to her 2007 arrest.

The first lawsuit sought to declare both the state's flag-mutilation law and its funeral protest law unconstitutional. The flag-mutilation law had barred intentionally "casting contempt or ridicule" upon an American or Nebraska flag by mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning or trampling on it. The funeral protest law prohibits picketing within 300 feet of a funeral or memorial services.

Last month, a federal judge in Omaha rejected that lawsuit, but Phelps-Roper had planned an appeal. The city of Bellevue also agreed last month to pay $17,000 to Phelps-Roper to be dismissed from her lawsuit. A federal judge, with agreement from state Attorney General Jon Bruning, barred enforcement of the flag-mutilation law, indicating it was unconstitutional.

The second lawsuit accuses Polikov, as well as other prosecutors in the office, of violating Phelps-Roper's constitutional rights "by investigating her for protected expressive activity," among other things.

Members of the church based in Topeka, Kan., travel the country protesting at soldiers' funerals because they believe U.S. troop deaths are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. Members often trample on, wear and display the American flag upside-down as part of their protests.


KayCee 7 years, 10 months ago

The Phelps group could avoid these trials if they respected other peoples RIGHTS.

nonbeliverofprint 7 years, 10 months ago

Yes, it sure is nice that they think they are the only ones entitled to rights. What about the families...aren't they entitled to the right to mourn their loved ones and celebrate their life without the harassment?

imastinker 7 years, 10 months ago

No - they aren't.

Sorry, but it's what makes our country great.

BorderRuffian 7 years, 10 months ago

They DON"T want to avoid lawsuits - they draw attention to these Troglodytes as well as finance their so-called church.

Daniel Speicher 7 years, 10 months ago

And, what's more... They make a significant amount of their funding from lawsuits won, due to impassioned bystanders and over zealous authorities. There is one thing and one thing only to do with a group like these... Ignore them. This removes the possibility of lawsuits (and the ample funding that follows) as well as lack of attention.

Frankly, I wish the media would just quit running news about these heretics. When a group feeds on attention and money, cut off both sources and they will slowly disappear.

Amy Heeter 7 years, 10 months ago

They aren't trying to avoid trials. They want the exposure.

denak 7 years, 10 months ago

Where does the child abuse charge come from????

Mike Hatch 7 years, 10 months ago

I heard on the news last night that she allowed her child to stand on the American flag.

Phil Minkin 7 years, 10 months ago

Abuse can be physical, mental or emotional according to the law.

rogueokie 7 years, 10 months ago

Brainwashing, the way that family practices is, is abuse. Read the hell stories of the survivors sometime. Some of the most viscious fights, even riots happen at flagburnings, no matter who you agree with. That action, in that context, absolutely constitutes placing the child in harms way, for her own political views.

omahomie 7 years, 10 months ago

The child abuse charge stems from the atmosphere she placed her child in.


"Deputy Sarpy County Attorney Nicole R. Hutter said prosecutors will argue that Phelps-Roper “placed her child in a situation that could be dangerous and disturbed the peace of individuals in the community.”'

Jimo 7 years, 10 months ago

"The church says the deaths are God's punishment for America's tolerance of homosexuality."

And here I thought that the deaths were God's punishment for America's tolerance of the Phelpses.

akt2 7 years, 10 months ago

Maybe they can find some kind of loop hole to sideline this freakshow for awhile. Hit them in the pocketbook if nothing else.

ksjayhawk74 7 years, 10 months ago

Going to trial is a big score for the Phelps family. This is how they make money...

They go to court, represent themselves, win the case (freedom of speech) and get their legal bills paid for by the prosecution. Since the represent themselves... they just get a nice big payday.

When they come around, you best option is to just ignore them. A well placed sprinkler system might work also.

Mike Hatch 7 years, 10 months ago

Definately a lot more lucrative that having the kids sell candy door to door.

trinity 7 years, 10 months ago

i couldn't get the article pulled up-this computer is very temperamental-but a headline on the kc star said the case has been dismissed. breaking news.

mom_of_three 7 years, 10 months ago

Yep, the kc star says it was dismissed on a plea agreement if Phelps dropped the federal lawsuits.

and it said she was accused of letting her son stand on the flag during a protest and for wearing the flag as a skirt which dragged on the ground.

jonas_opines 7 years, 10 months ago

I really don't think this is the way to successfully fight these people.

Sadly, the one really effective way to fight them (IE everybody, including media, simply ignores them) appears to be as far beyond our natural, human capacity as it would be for everybody to stop rubbernecking at car wrecks.

mbulicz 7 years, 10 months ago

I like laughing at them.

They came to Emporia once for a protest and I stood in front of them with an unrelated, funny sign. If you get people to point at them and laugh, you've disarmed them entirely. They want counter protests; this just feeds their persecution delusion.

The opposite of love is not hate; it is disinterest. Get people to disengage with humor, and you may have found the most effective tool in making these fools disappear into the darker pages of history where they belong.

fu7il3 7 years, 10 months ago

Sorry, it really don't disarm them. People laugh at them all the time and tell them they are ridiculous. Your funny sign draws even more attention to them being there, which gets them on the news, which is what they want. They also like it when you stand in front of them because the closer you get to them, the more likely you are to do something they will be able to sue you for.

These people do several times a month all over the United States. Do you really think you standing there with a sign that says "Free the Kittens" is going to bother them?

The only way to bother them would be if everyone ignored them and none of the media cared. Unfortunately, everyone makes a big scene and everyone has to get it on film. They will never go away.

dontcallmedan 7 years, 10 months ago

I've asked Fred what kind of person his mother was. That seemed to bother him.

rogueokie 7 years, 10 months ago

Are you kidding? They've done more for the gay rights movement than any single organization designed for that purpose!

Rave on PHRED!

Still think someone needs to bring him up on abuse charges.

LOTS of press for crazy hater's. He dies happy, people get a radical in side view of how these war-like fundamentalists REALLY think.

rogueokie 7 years, 10 months ago

She kept her maiden name. No that does not mean she never divorced her father. Its quite common really especially with well known women. Hillary Rhodam-Clinton ect....

rogueokie 7 years, 10 months ago

Her children should be Ropers, unless Phred made them keep Phelps, it would not suprise me in the least if he did.

She kept her maiden name after marriage. No that does not mean she never divorced her father. Its quite common really especially with well known women. Hillary Rhodam-Clinton ect....

Liberty275 7 years, 10 months ago

Any law banning the desecration of an American flag is the utter opposite of everything the flag stands for. On the day the stripey starry cloth has more meaning than what it is supposed to symbolize, we have become a nation of fools.

What a crock.

topeka52 7 years, 10 months ago

Being from Topeka, we have tried for years to ignore them, they thrive in any situation that gives them publicty.

Shirley is married to Brent Roper, hence the hyponiated name.

Someone above mentioned them selling candy. Many years ago I worked in retail sales in downtown Topeka when stores stayed open on Thursday evenings. It was a common occurance that we would have to "Run" the Phelps out of the store or in front of the store for "Selling Candy" Now those kids had to be Fred Jr, Shirley and the other older Phelps spawn.

As too child endangerment, I think that having the youngest childern out holding signs in the extremes of Kansas winters and summers may qualify.

meggers 7 years, 10 months ago

Allowing one's child to stand on a flag constitutes child abuse?? As repugnant as I find the Phelps clan and their activities, it sounds like authorities were seriously stretching to find something to charge them with.

That's not to say that the kids aren't being abused- I think there's a very good chance they are. The flag thing just isn't exactly the most compelling piece of evidence.

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 10 months ago

I'm just curious how many of the posters popping on here to condemn the Phelps clan and their ideology support the building of the Mosque in NY. Curiously similar, both arguments claim freedoms protected under the constitution yet a majority of Americans find their actions detestable...

Zachary Stoltenberg 7 years, 10 months ago

And?... Sounds like a cop out excuse of an answer. I can easily compare Imam Fiasal and Fred Phelps.

meggers 7 years, 10 months ago

I condemn the hatred spewed by the Phelps clan, but I also understand that the First Amendment applies equally to them. I think things become a little bit more sketchy, however, when they're flashing signs that by most standards, would be considered obscene. There are laws against public indecency, yet they seem to have carte blanche to routinely display pornographic images accompanied by obscene and offensive phrases. I'd be interested in seeing a lawsuit that addresses that, rather than just trying to ban them from protesting at certain venues. Or claiming child abuse, because a kid is standing on a flag.

I believe the building of the mosque should never have become a poltical issue to begin with. It's just a red herring to stir the emotions of the electorate. Talking about terrorism prior to election time typically benefits right-leaning candidates. It's a non-issue, and one that makes our country look ignorant and xenophobic.

Liberty275 7 years, 10 months ago

I don't need to cop out. The phelps klan should be able to protest as they wish as long as it is done within obscenity, zoning and noise laws, regardless of nearby funerals, graduations or whatever occasion you choose. They should also be able to do whatever they wish with American flags as long they are within the aforementioned laws.

Ground zero... I would support the freedom to build a mosque inside the new building at ground zero.

When you actually believe in freedom and the constitution, you don't have to babble about responsibilities in an effort to curb the liberties of those you oppose.

That is a tasty apple.

kansasredlegs 7 years, 10 months ago

$17,000 paid by City of Bellevue. Well, I suppose Bellevue won't be passing anymore more of those pesky emotional feel-good laws for a bit.

Got to hand it to the Phelps Buskers clan though, $17,000 not to bad for acting the fool and baiting officials to act and make an illegal arrest.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 10 months ago

Specious argument, stoltenberg.

I think very few support the building of a mosque, but do support the right to do so (or at least oppose blocking the building of the mosque).

Personally, I don't want mosques or churches or synagogues or temples built anywhere. All religion is stupid and harmful. Yet our constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

It also guarantees free speech, which is why I think these lawsuits against the Phelps are wrong-headed.

In both cases, the right wing want to deny free speech to the Phelps and deny freedom of religion to the builders of the mosque. This is the true similarity. Remember, Phelps was okey dokey to the right as long as he was bashing gays. Now that funerals of servicemen are involved, the right got its undies in a bunch and lawsuits resulted.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 years, 10 months ago

The ONLY way, and I mean the ONLY way to fight this scum is to ignore them. They want contriversy, they want attention, they want to create screaming and yelling and hatred, they want to be in the news. The ONLY way to fight this degraded filth of human debauchery is to totally, completely ignore them, not one article, notice or word spoken to them. That would be the worst result for these desparately sick people.

domino 7 years, 10 months ago

Until you can convince the media to ignore them, they will continue to thrive on media attention. If the media attention stops, I feel their balloon would soon deflate. But as long as the media throws them into the limelight, they will continue to thrive. I know of 1 tv station in the KC area that set a policy to not air anything concerning the Phelps cult. Don't know if that is still their policy, as no longer get their station. I can only hope it still is and that others will follow in their footsteps. That includes the LJ World!!!

Jimo 7 years, 10 months ago

Of course this article ignores the real Nebraska scandal of the day:

The State of Nebraska has changed it's long-standing rule on Medicaid eligibility for children to deny pre-natal assistance to undocumented residents. Previously, the legal status ("anchor baby") of the fetus determined eligibility for benefits.

Now, the right is tearing itself apart:

One one side are pro-life Nebraskans who conclude that this policy is certain to increase the number of abortions and want the rules changed back.

On the other hand are the anti-immigrant Nebraskans basking in the heterogeneity of all white Nebraska who want to send these "illegal aliens" home - or at least to a different state.

Hmmm...who will win? Is abortion the greatest threat to the Republic or are Mexicans? Grab the popcorn. This will be the best death match since South Park's Cripple Fight!

asonesign175 7 years, 10 months ago

"... protesting at soldiers' funerals because they believe U.S. troop deaths are punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality....."

Does anyone ever wonder what they will blame next, after troops stop dying? For instance, will they start to blame America's problem with obeisity on homosexuality? Or, will they say that the reason prices on gas are going up are because of homosexuality? I mean, they can only blame Obama for so long and they can't be saying a soldier who has died from say, cancer, has died because of the homosexuals. Well... they could, and actually, I wouldn't put it past them...

FrancescaPFurbottom 7 years, 10 months ago

There's a lot more where that came from, too. Just google his name, and you can probably find his book online. I don't know what people expect from people who are literally out of their f** minds.

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