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Canoeist sentenced to community service for curses

The Associated Press

08.24.99

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STANDISH, Mich. — Being nationally known as the potty-mouthed canoeist has made Timothy Boomer think twice about what he yells in public.

"I've learned my lesson," Boomer said yesterday after a judge sentenced him to four days of community service and a choice of three days in jail or a $75 fine for cursing near children.

"Every day I'm teased, every day I'm harassed, every day someone can't walk by without saying, 'Watch your mouth, here's the cursing canoeist.' I'll hear it every day for the rest of my life," he said.

The 25-year-old computer programmer admitted that he let loose with a stream of a profanities after tumbling out of a canoe last summer on the Rifle River.

A nearby couple with two young children said they were so horrified by his blue streak that they paddled swiftly away. The sheriff's deputy who ticketed Boomer said he could hear the shouts from a quarter-mile away.

A jury convicted Boomer in June of violating Michigan's 102-year-old ban on using profanity in the presence of children.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Boomer, contends his freedom of speech was violated. Prosecutors argued the outburst wasn't protected because it conveyed no specific thought.

District Judge Allen Yenior, who ordered Boomer to work in a child-care program as community service, put the sentence on hold while the conviction is appealed.

Boomer contends he was made a scapegoat for rowdy boaters along the rural waterway in Standish, about 130 miles north of Detroit.

"I know I am being punished by a law that not one person in a million in America ever thought existed," he said. If his conviction is upheld, Boomer says he will pay the fine rather than go to jail.

When asked whether he has cleaned up his language since the incident, Boomer replied, "I sure have."

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