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Canoeist's crusade continues as court upholds cursing conviction

The Associated Press

02.18.00

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STANDISH, Mich. — A judge yesterday upheld the conviction of a man who cursed in front of children after falling out of a canoe, ruling that Michigan's 103-year-old anti-swearing law is constitutional.

A district court jury last summer convicted Timothy Boomer, a 26-year-old computer programmer, of violating the ban on using profanity in the presence of children when he let loose with a stream of curses.

He was fined $75 and ordered to work four days in a child-care program. The sentence was deferred while the case was appealed.

"Every noise or utterance does not constitute protected free speech that falls within the ... First Amendment," said Arenac County Judge Ronald Bergeron.

Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Boomer, said they expected to appeal the latest ruling. They contend Boomer's freedom of speech was violated.

"If the First Amendment means anything, it means people may speak their minds, even walking down the street or canoeing up the river," said Michael Steinberg, legal director for the ACLU in Michigan.

Bergeron ordered the matter returned to district court for a decision on whether to continue delaying Boomer's sentence.

Boomer did not immediately return a phone message yesterday. He has said that his words have been exaggerated.

A sheriff's deputy said he heard Boomer explode in a three-minute barrage of profanity after the mishap on the Rifle River last August. A woman and her two young children were nearby.

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