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Witnesses repeat canoeist's curses for court

The Associated Press


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Timothy Boomer ...
Timothy Boomer Jr.

STANDISH, Mich. — The fiancée of a man who could go to jail for allegedly cussing a blue streak after tumbling out of his canoe offered conflicting testimony today about what he said.

Timothy Boomer's fiancée, Courtney Kageff, initially said she didn't remember Boomer using any profanity. But when pressed by the prosecution, she testified that she remembered him using some foul language, but didn't recall how many words he used.

"I don't remember what he said," Kageff testified.

When the court broke for lunch, the defense said it had five more witnesses to call. Attorneys said they hoped the jury would get the case today.

The prosecution rested its case earlier today against Boomer, charged with violating Michigan's century-old ban on swearing in front of children. If convicted of the misdemeanor, he could be jailed for 90 days and fined $100.

The trial began yesterday in Arenac County District Court, with three prosecution witnesses graphically repeating a string of expletives they said an enraged Boomer shouted after his Aug. 15, 1998, mishap on the Rifle River.

"He was screaming," said Kenneth Socia, the former deputy sheriff who ticketed Boomer.

The tirade lasted five to seven minutes, during which Boomer yelled a particular word and its derivatives perhaps two dozen times, Socia said.

Defense lawyer William Street acknowledged his client may have uttered a profanity or two but said: "Timothy Boomer did not disrespect anyone's rights that day."

Street contended the 25-year-old computer programmer from the Detroit suburb Roseville did not know children were nearby. "You cannot in good conscience label him a criminal," he told the jury.

Street said Boomer was being unjustly blamed for years of misconduct by others on the river about 130 miles north of Detroit, a popular attraction for tourists from southern Michigan.

Curious spectators and reporters packed the cramped basement courtroom for the trial — broadcast live by Court TV — in a case that has drawn nationwide attention as an example of the clash between free-speech rights and the struggle for a more courteous society.

Street is defending Boomer on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, which contends the 1897 anti-profanity law is unconstitutional.

Michael and Tammy Smith supported Socia's version of events, saying they came up behind Boomer's canoe as it struck a rock, sending him into the water.

Instructed by the prosecutor and judge to repeat Boomer's exact words, a visibly uncomfortable Michael Smith yelled a string of expletives followed by, "I'm tired of this ... place. I want off this ... river. Get that ... canoe back here."

Boomer continued the barrage for several minutes as he trudged through the waist-deep Rifle River in pursuit of his companions, who were riding in five canoes tied together with bungee cords, Smith said.

Tammy Smith told jurors she covered her 2-year-old daughter's ears and admonished her 5-year-old son not to listen to Boomer as her husband paddled around him and sped away.

Socia testified that Boomer continued cursing as he was being issued a ticket.