Last May, Connecticut resident William Barboza, 22, was driving through the Catskills town of Liberty when he was pulled over and given a speeding ticket. Three months later he paid it, sending it in to the town clerk with a hand-written message: "FUCK YOUR SHITTY TOWN BITCHES." In an ironic twist, he crossed out the town's name, Liberty, and wrote "TYRANNY." A hit, a very palpable hit! It was all just Barboza's playful way of sticking it to the Man, but he forgot that sometimes the Man sticks back.
Not only was Barboza's payment rejected, but he was ordered to make the two hour trek to TYRANNY to appear in court, whereupon a judge allegedly "berated" Barboza about his potty-mouth. Then he was arrested, handcuffed to a bench and forced to pay $200 bail. Six months later the charges were dismissed by a municipal judge who ruled that the words were “crude, vulgar, inappropriate and clearly intended to annoy,” as well as fully protected by the First Amendment.
Now the NYCLU has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on Barboza's behalf; staff attorney Mariko Hirose argues, "New York’s aggravated harassment statute must be struck from the books, once and for all. No one else should have to suffer the way Mr. Barboza did." Indeed, in 2003, the New York Court of Appeals said the statute cannot be applied to speech just because it is “crude and offensive.” And in 1997, a federal court judge found the law to be “utterly repugnant to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and also unconstitutional for vagueness."
"All I did was express my frustration with a ticket and I almost ended up in jail. I want to make sure nobody else ends up in a similar situation because of this law," says Barboza in a statement that is sorely lacking in "BITCHES."