A federal jury on Wednesday ruled in favor of Santa Cruz city officials who ejected a homeless advocate from a public meeting nearly a decade ago for making a Roman salute.
As previously reported, an 11-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of homeless advocate Robert Norse in December 2010. Norse was ejected from a city council meeting on March 12, 2002 for giving the Roman salute, now synonymous with the government of Nazi Germany, to Santa Cruz, California mayor Christopher Krohn during a heated debate on rules for sleeping outdoors.
The Appeals Court overturned an earlier ruling upholding a trial court’s decision not to hear evidence in the case, and ruled the salute is legitimate free speech protected under the First Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined the city’s request for an appeal a year ago, clearing the way for a trial that ended Wednesday.
During the four-day trial, Norse’s attorney David Beauvais and co-counsel Kate Wells argued their client had been singled out for his unrelenting defense of the homeless, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
The jury returned with a unanimous 8-0 verdict in favor of city officials.
Former Councilman Tim Fitzmaurice said ruling shows he and then-Mayor Christopher Krohn ”acted with integrity” when they threw Norse out of the meeting.
Beauvais said he would file a motion for a new trial within two weeks based on First Amendment grounds. If he is denied a new trial, Beauvais said he would evaluate the judge’s reasoning before determining whether to appeal further.