Last week, the Fort Bend County, Texas Sherrif’s Department made national news by posting a photo of a decidedly politically incorrect bumper sticker on Facebook, along with a message to the then-unknown driver that they were at risk of facing disorderly conduct charges. As KHOU reported, the “bumper sticker” was large enough to nearly cover the back window of the white pickup belonging to driver Karen Fonesca, and it read “F**k Trump and F**k you for voting for him.”
In a now-deleted Facebook post, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls claimed to have gotten “numerous” calls complaining about the sticker, adding that he wanted to “discuss” the “offensive display” with the vehicle’s owner, later identified as Karen Fonesca. According to the Facebook post, which sparked widespread social media debate regarding free speech, the local prosecutor was ready to move forward with disorderly conduct charges over the controversial political statement, but that the sheriff was willing to “come to an agreement regarding modification.”
“I have received numerous calls regarding the offensive display on this truck as it is often seen along FM 359. If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you. Our Prosecutor has informed us she would accept Disorderly Conduct charges regarding it, but I feel we could come to an agreement regarding a modification to it.”
Hours after Sheriff Nehls’ divisive and contentious Facebook post targeting the driver of the anti-Trump Truck, owner and driver Karen Fonesca was arrested. Not for disorderly conduct, as threatened by the sheriff, but on an outstanding 2014 fraud warrant. Fonesca has since posted bail, and on Monday participated in a press conference flanked by her attorney and surrounded by family, friends and other supporters, according to KREM 2.
During the press conference, the public was made aware that Fonesca has, indeed, modified the political message on her pickup. Rather than censure her thoughts about Trump and Trump voters, however, the politically outspoken Texan added another name to her list. Now, her truck also features an unapologetic message directly to the Fort Bend sheriff: “F**k Troy Kehls and F**k you for voting for him.”
According to Karen Fonesca’s attorney, she and her family are at the point of considering a civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Nehls. According to the supporters of Fonesca and her cause, they have her back in an attempt to protect her against the political target placed on her for simply exercising her First Amendment Right to Free Speech in opposition to President Trump!”
Karen Fonesca also had the support of her daughters during her Monday press conference, and according to one of them, the entire family has been targeted by “backlash” since Sheriff Troy Nehls blasted their mom on Facebook last week. In spite of the criticism, however, Fonesca and her anti-Trump bumper sticker also received a lot of support, and thousands of social media users condemned the Fort Bend sheriff for trampling on her constitutionally protected free speech.
For Fonesca’s part, the Texas mom claims that she’s concerned about the message that’s being sent to the upcoming generation of American presidents – especially when it comes to free speech, including whose is protected and whose isn’t. Not to mention what happens to a culture and society when leaders are afforded greater leeway than private citizens.
“What are we teaching our next generation of presidents to be?… If you can say ‘grab those women by the p***y…He [Donald Trump] says it and nobody deletes it. No matter what race, religion, or belief you may have, we are all equal. Not any one of us is any better than anyone else. Everyone’s voice should be heard. And I’m just one person.”
Texas state representative Ron Reynolds also stood with Fonesca during the press conference, demanding an apology from Sheriff Nehls for targeting Karen Fonesca and “making her family’s life a nightmare.” So far, that apology hasn’t happened.
In fact, rather than publicly apologize, Sheriff Troy Nehls released an extensive statement in response to claims made by Karen Fonesca. According to Nehls, his Facebook post was in direct response to numerous complaints regarding the language displayed on Fonesca’s anti-Trump sticker. The sheriff claims that, in response to complaints, he asked for a photo of the truck in question. When that photo was received, it did not include the license plate number, prompting him to post a photo to Facebook in an attempt to ID the driver.
After identifying the owner, Nehls wrote in his statement that his department discovered Karen Fonesca’s outstanding fraud warrant, which was not issued by his department. When the warrant was discovered, it was served on Fonesca in accordance with the law.
“The facts in this case as I see them are that Karen Fonseca wanted to place her feelings into the public realm by driving around with an obscenity on her vehicle. She got just that — much public recognition. This recognition did not cause her to be indicted by a grand jury for Felony Fraud (this happened back in August of 2017), but it did bring the subsequent warrant to our attention and we did our job by arresting her.
In the beginning of this incident, I was hopeful that the person driving around with an obscenity for full view of all (including children) would be reasonable and would be willing to talk about coming to an agreed solution that satisfied her 1st Amendment rights while respecting the rights of parents and others offended by this display of an obscenity.”
“Having heard her talk in the public since the beginning of this, I am now quite aware that no such hope for a calm and reasonable discussion exists with her. This is sad and I hope that in the end she can come to see that just because citizens may have the legal right to do something, it does not always make it the right thing to do.”
Sheriff Troy Nehls ended his statement regarding the Karen Fonesca matter by promising that no further statements regarding the “F**k Trump” sticker debacle would be issued by himself or his department, in an attempt to prevent further attention to Fonesca’s “display of obscenity.”
[Featured Image by Fort Bend County, Texas Sherrif’s Department]