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Another Michigan man faces charges under 1897 anti-cussing law

The Associated Press

04.27.00

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HARRISON, Mich. — Another Michigan man has been charged under an 1897 state law that prohibits swearing in the presence of women and children.

Clare County prosecutors say Steven R. Clevenger used vulgar language within earshot of high school students after he was fired from his job as an assistant volleyball coach at Farwell High School.

If convicted of the misdemeanor, Clevenger could face up to three months in jail and a $100 fine.

Clevenger, 20, was a part-time assistant for the girls volleyball team until Assistant Principal David Beckey and head volleyball coach Angela E. Paklledinaz fired him Jan. 27.

The sports-management student at Central Michigan University was fired because he made his players run extra laps during practice, said Clevenger's attorney, William T. Street.

"He was also let go for his rudeness and behavior with the student athletes," Street told The Saginaw News for a report yesterday.

When the principal and coach told Clevenger he was fired, he became upset and started using vulgar and offensive language, a police report said.

Despite a request to refrain from cursing, Clevenger continued to do so while an office door was open to students, the report said.

Clevenger, of Kodiak, Alaska, told authorities that the cursing occurred behind closed doors.

Street is the attorney who represented Timothy Boomer when he was charged with the same offense in 1998.

An Arenac County sheriff's deputy ticketed Boomer, 26, after he let out a profanity-laced tirade when he fell out of a canoe on the Rifle River.

A jury convicted Boomer, a Roseville computer programmer, last June. State District Judge Allen C. Yenior sentenced him to four days of community service in a child-care program and a $75 fine but deferred the sentence while the case is on appeal.

Street says the 103-year-old law, which says "any person who shall use any indecent, immoral, obscene, vulgar or insulting language in the presence or hearing of any woman or child shall be guilty of a misdemeanor," violates the First Amendment.

Arenac Circuit Judge Ronald M. Bergeron affirmed Boomer's conviction and upheld the constitutionality of the law — as it relates to cursing in front of children — in February. Street, of the American Civil Liberties Union, has asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to take that case.

One of the key legal issues is whether the expletives convey a coherent message or belief.

Clevenger is scheduled to appear May 3 for a hearing before District Judge Gary J. Allen.

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