“We just couldn’t get over how that one guy was ‘disgusted,’” says the young UB cog sci major.¹ They never considered the NOM rally a “religious service.” They didn’t believe Donna Donovan. They didn’t believe Roland Cercone. They didn’t believe the Mount Olive security guard. And they didn’t believe Swanson. But they did believe Josh Bunting.
“But you don’t know what that guy thought!” Fallon marbled. “Maybe he liked it — he wasn’t here!”
“You know,” I say. “They originally charged me with filming the police — and they changed it, three months later, to obscenity after they found the dildo-phone pic online.”
“And they erased my camera.”
A glimmer of understanding comes over the foreman — a Born Again Skeletor look-a-like — and then he says, “So, you work at CFI, huh? I work near there.” He scowls. Or smiles. There’s literally no way to know.
I’m speechless. For days they heard that I’m a journalist — opening, closing, and a dozen times in between. And this skull-looking motherfucker thinks I work at the Center for Inquiry. “Let’s go!” I yell. I want to choke him out. I need to leave before I explode, and they again find me guilty of exercising my First Amendment rights. It would have been truly offensive.
So we beat the misdemeanor. That’s good. And we beat three of four counts of disorderly conduct. Sentencing is in a few weeks. It could be 14 days in jail, a $250 fine, community service, or just time served. “Don’t ever do performance art again!” the judge may scold. “It’s blasphemy!” After that we appeal the decision in County Court. Regardless of that outcome, my impending civil case against the City of Buffalo is solid. Fuck you, Donna Donovan. Fuck you in your pig ass.
Unlike criminal trials, it’s no problem getting evidence submitted into the record during a civil case. And that record will clearly reflect that I was originally charged with “harassment” for videotaping the police. It will also reflect that between July 24 and October 6, some genius in the DA’s office figured out that that’s not illegal, so they hopped on the Internet, called in some favors and conspired to take me down with pure fiction. We’ll also be able to submit the bullshit police report from July 24 that says I was chasing cops around with the dildo, which has Donovan’s name on it — the report, not the dildo. That’s the report they showed the Buffalo News to smear me. On the stand, however, Donovan swore she never saw the dildo-phone. So things look good.
Then again, I’ve basically lost what little faith I had in the legal system, so we’ll have to wait and see.
So we won. Or we lost. I don’t know. I know we mostly won. But I feel like we mostly lost. Free expression lost. Justice lost. Art lost. Journalism — weird as it may be — lost. The First Amendment lost. Dildos lost.
The civil case is golden, and Donna Donovan might get what she deserves, but the fucking puritans won. Again. They founded this country and they’ve been busting balls ever since. Sex is bad. Religion is good. Art is scary. God will save you. It’s totally backward. And I’m angrier than ever.
Whatever. This whole thing’s been pretty stressful, and I just need to forget about it for a while. I have to pack, too. I’m going to Wisconsin for the June 5 recall election. It’s just the fate of Wisconsin, by extension the country, and my career that hangs in the balance. Not stressful at all.
P.S. If you feel like reading this entire saga, here you go:
¹ That quote caused a rather unfortunate shit storm (see comments below). Short story: cog sci juror wrote, “Not quite what I said.” I defended my reporting, and Fallon chimed in to say that that’s what he heard him say, too. The juror conceded that he may have said what I reported, and that we probably didn’t hear what else he said because Fallon (and the other jurors) talked over him. The gist of what we didn’t hear: “Whether or not the guy reacted with disgust or embarrassment, I thought the act was obscene according to current community standards as defined in the law rather than my own opinion.” So as objectively poor as Josh Bunting’s testimony was, the guilty verdict wasn’t his fault. I was openly baffled & angered by Josh’s testimony, but I’ve already acknowledged that every shred of blame is owed to the cop who arrested me for videotaping her & the judge who played the role of hometown ref. Sadly, I can’t even be happy about this revelation. Upon cog sci juror’s initial comment, Bunting flatly accused me of fabricating the quote.
Mr. Bunting left me little choice but to end his relationship with The BEAST. It’s nothing personal. People fuck up. It happens. But as the editor-n-chief ’round these parts, I simply cannot tolerate being unfairly, and unrepentantly, accused of journalistic fraud by one of my writers in a public venue. I understand that he was likely mad at me for being critical of his testimony in this same public venue — even if I did stick strictly to the facts. And I understand his desire to vindicate himself. Regardless of his objectively poor testimony, and his irrational accusations against me, he has been vindicated. He’s not the reason I was found guilty of obscenity. However, it’s unacceptable to accuse one’s editor of committing serious journalistic sins, in a public venue, without any supporting evidence. I won’t tolerate that kind of unreasonable abuse. That said, if Mr. Bunting ever wants to regain his BEAST byline, he just needs to issue an unequivocal apology for unfairly accusing me of fabricating quotes. People fuck up. It happens.
I’m deeply saddened by this whole thing. Putting aside my justified offense, I like Mr. Bunting, and he’s done years of great work at The BEAST. I’d like nothing more than to accept Josh’s apology, and to put this behind us, for the sake of our readers. Unfortunately, Mr. Bunting seems quite incapable of assuming responsibility for his actions, so I don’t expect his return. But I hope he proves me wrong.