New Jersey: David Wells, a former Long Branch police officer who was charged with defiant trespass for handing out religious pamphlets at Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, New Jersey, will again have to wait for his day in court. The court case was originally scheduled for Dec. 5, 2013, but has been postponed—for the fourth time.
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APP is reporting that Eatontown Borough Prosecutor, Sean T. Kean asked for the case to be adjourned because Mall representatives were unable to attend. Judge Robert B. Thompson granted his request.
“There are a lot of constitutional issues. It’s a little bit more complicated than the average case we see in this court,” Thompson said, adding that both sides have used up their postponements and he won’t grant another.
Wells, was initially charged by Eatontown police officers on Nov. 5 when he refused to stop talking to people and engage them in conversations at the Monmouth Mall.
Mall security approached him and told him to stop and leave the property. They said the mall was private property and that he couldn’t distribute tracts there. Wells defended that he had a right to do what he was doing, and cited a state court ruling that declared malls a quasi-public venue where such leaflets could be distributed. The mall’s code of conduct allows picketing, leafleting, soliciting and/or petitioning with prior written consent from mall management, which Wells did not have. Security called the police.
When Eatontown police officers arrived, Wells explained that he didn’t want to be arrested, but after continuing to assert that his activities were legal, Wells was arrested and charged with trespassing. In court, he plead ’not guilty’ to the charges.
In Nov. 2013, Wells told the Christian News Network,
“I want to emphasize that I was not making any public spectacle: no signs, no loudness, no offensive language. I was simply trying to talk to people. I simply approached individuals and asked them if I could ask them a question. If they said no, I left them alone. If they said yes I simply asked, ‘Are you going to Heaven?’ How I responded was based on how they answered that question.”
“If we’ve gotten to the point in the U.S. that we cannot talk to other people civilly, we’re in trouble.”
David’s attorney, Demetrios Stratis said they will ask Thompson for a dismissal of the charge.
New Jersey legal statute defines defiant trespass as a petty disorderly persons offense.
While it has been reported that Wells was handing out Bible tracts, David Wells told Voice of the Persecuted,
I never defended my right to handout literature, but my right to talk to people and engage them in conversations. What I was using looked like trillion dollar bills and I used them as an ‘Ice breaker’ to facilitate a conversation. The fact is that I wasn’t handing them out willy-nilly to every passerby.
I would pose the question, “Would you like to answer a question for a trillion dollars?” If the person did not, they did not get the (fake) money. The trillion dollars were nothing more than novelties to start a conversation.
The prosecution wants to make the handling out of leaflets the center of the case, but that is the furthest thing from the truth, and that’s what I told them repeatedly at the mall. In other words, I didn’t leave because I believed I had a right to leaflet, I didn’t leave because I have a right to talk to people.
The police reports reflect that he maintained his right to speak freely.
We also asked David if the case has diminished his mission to share the Gospel in any way. He told VOP, “This hasn’t had any negative affect, only positive!”
David mentioned that since his arrest, he had been wondering how God will use this ‘event’ for His glory. He met a man who works on Wall Street that shared with him how the arrest ultimately lead to discussions with his unsaved co-workers about Jesus Christ! David said, “I was very blessed to hear this! Praises to God!”
At one of the court appearances, a friend from David’s church was able to witness to a reporter who was covering the story, along with two other people. Wells said, “Seeds were planted that day!”
A petition to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, as well as officials of Vornado Realty, was started on Wells’ behalf, asking the company and Monmouth Mall to allow free speech, and to “change their policies to comply with the protections of the United States Constitution and judicial case law banning discrimination.”
The petition was started by Robert Angelini, who believes Wells was within his rights to distribute leaflets. Angelini is a former police officer who retired from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office in 2012.
In the petition, Angelini states:
“Our interpretation of the manager’s explanation and the mall’s code of conduct makes a reasonable person believe, if you engage any person anywhere on mall property and utter anything ‘religious’; and/or hand out leaflets and that utterance brings a complaint from at least one person, you will be asked to leave the property and arrested if you don’t comply.
“Dave, standing up for our religious freedom and our Constitutional rights, was treated like a common criminal. His crime? Refusing to leave the mall for engaging people in conversation about God’s love and salvation.”
You can sign the petition HERE
By Lois Kanalos