Battle brewing over devilish stickers

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

Stickers on a Clovis man’s car portray cartoon images of bare-breasted female devils in sexually compromising positions. And the images have caught the attention of Clovis police.

Officials have charged 31-year-old Dean Young, the owner of a yellow Ford Focus displaying the images, with distribution of sexually oriented materials to minors. The charge is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum punishment of 364 days in jail and $1,000 fine. Young is scheduled to appear in magistrate court on the charges in the next few weeks.

Young in turn has notified the American Civil Liberties Union, which is considering representing Young; an ACLU spokesman said Young’s First Amendment rights may have been violated.

Officials at the ACLU said they’ve never seen the stickers — one on each side of the car near the rear window, each about 4 by 6 inches wide — but based on the police report said they doubt the stickers violate the law.

“I’ve never heard of anyone getting a ticket for a sticker on a car,” said Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico. “Unless the stickers are directly and immediately inciting people to violence — that’s the only way the Supreme Court has said that free speech can be somehow limited.”

When state prosecutor Chris Chandler first saw the case, he had concerns too.

Then he saw the images.

“Once you look at the picture it obviously depicts a sexual act. That’s far beyond what is depicted on the mudflaps truckers have,” Chandler said.

The stickers depict one devil with its mouth around another’s tail, which may suggest oral sex, according to the Dec. 12 police report.

Therefore, Chandler said Young’s images are in violation of the law.

Young said he bought the stickers at a former Clovis business almost three years ago. He said they are “raunchy,” but not pornographic.

“It’s not like I cut a picture out of Hustler and put it on my car,” said Young, who still has the stickers on his car but is unsure if he wants to take the case to trial.

He said he put the stickers on his car to protest a Clovis law prohibiting alcohol and beer sales on Sunday, something he believes is brought on by churchgoers.

“I’m offended by church people saying I can’t drink on Sundays, so I put the devil chicks on my car, because I figured it would offend them right back,” Young said. “That’s not a government issue, because if it was, why not on Tuesday or why not on Wednesday. The fact that it’s Sunday shows that it’s church motivated, and that’s unconstitutional.”

Chandler said the case came to light after the young son of Clovis police Detective Kirk Roberts saw the stickers. Roberts saw his son staring at the images during a family outing to an area restaurant, where Young works as a waiter, Chandler said.

Young said he would have removed the stickers if Roberts hadn’t threatened to charge him with a felony. He said Roberts told him to remove the stickers, and came back to the restaurant two weeks later. When they weren’t removed, police issued the citation to Young, who said Roberts is the first person to approach him with concerns over the stickers.

“The only reason I’m getting charged with this is because some overzealous, church-going detective got offended by it, and got even more offended by it by the fact that I didn’t take it off after he threatened me,” Young said.

Roberts sees things differently.

“He apparently believes we’re violating his First Amendment rights … that right ends at my nose,” said Roberts, who said he’s heard some complaints about the stickers. “The picture is pornographic, and he cannot tell me that he (believes) kids aren’t going to see that when he’s stopped at a light next to a car full of kids, or in a public parking lot. You line up 100 people and I’d be surprised if 100 didn’t tell you that’s pornographic.”