Pro-Life Activist Won't Face 'Obscenity' Charges Over Abortion Pictures

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - A pro-life activist arrested over Thanksgiving weekend will not face charges for displaying graphic images of aborted babies, the Gwinnett County Solicitor in Georgia announced Monday.

Bob Roethlisberger, a pro-life activist affiliated with Operation Rescue, was arrested in Gwinnett County over the Thanksgiving weekend while driving a "Truth Truck," an Operation Rescue vehicle that displays graphic images of aborted babies.

He was arrested for displaying what police called "vulgar and obscene" imagery, according to Operation Rescue. Roethlisberger was held for three days before being released on $1,000 bond, the group said.

But County Solicitor General Rosanna Szabo announced Monday that Roethlisberger will not face charges in the case because enforcement of the statute prohibiting obscene, vulgar, or profane language "must necessarily be narrow and limited."

Police had already suspended arrest on similar grounds, according to Cpl. Illana Spellman, who on Monday declined to discuss the case with Cybercast News Service but confirmed that "right now we're suspending arrests of that nature."

In a statement, Szabo said that the physical display of the images Roethlisberger used, "as shocking and offensive as they are - does not constitute 'obscene and vulgar or profane language' (emphasis in original) as specifically prohibited by this statute."

"That's awesome," Cheryl Sullenger, a senior policy advisor for Operation Rescue, said when informed of the decision. "I guess they - after looking at the letter - they decided that they were not right in arresting Bob and impounding the truck and we look forward to being able to express our free speech rights in the future."

Sullenger was referring to a letter delivered to the Gwinnett County Police Department Saturday by Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. Sullenger called the letter the "first step in taking legal actions" against the police.

The letter, written by a lawyer for Newman, demanded "speedy return ... of their confiscated materials," "a forthright apology," and "an appropriate assurance no future arrests and wrongs will occur."

Operation Rescue has also claimed that police damaged the truck when they "forcibly ripped the signs off the sides of the truck." But Spellman denied those claims, saying that "there was not any damage made to the truck."

Sullenger said it was "bizarre" that police would deny damage to the truck, noting that $1,000 signs "were slashed off the side of the truck" and that two sets of other pictures were confiscated. "We can't show you any pictures of the slashed things because they were impounded," she said.

Sullenger said Operation Rescue is "going to have to" continue pursuing legal action against the police to cover the costs of the alleged damages.

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