An Iowa man has been found not guilty after he was arrested in October for strongly criticizing a police officer during a city council meeting, the Des Moines Register reports.
Now, the ordinance used to justify the arrest of Noah Petersen has been overturned after it was determined to be in violation of the First Amendment.
“We believe the court got this exactly right,” Petersen’s attorney told the Des Moines Register. “We will be moving forward with a civil rights lawsuit soon.”
At the city council meeting in Newton, Iowa, Petersen, 22, referenced a video showing local police arresting a college football player for drunk driving. The video has sparked controversy and the driver has since filed a lawsuit accusing the department of false arrest.
During the meeting, Petersen said the Newton Police Department was “pro–domestic abuse because they are currently employing a domestic abuser.” He was then kicked out of the meeting and arrested for disorderly conduct, following a council rule prohibiting “derogatory statements or comments about any individual.”
After being found not guilty on Wednesday, a judge overturned the rule barring “derogatory” statements, saying it is “violative of the First Amendment.”
Petersen “did not act in any objectively unreasonable manner,” the judge continued. “He read a prepared statement relating to the basic city service of policing. While some may not agree with the content of his comments, the Court finds the statements made were not ‘derogatory,’ nor about an ‘individual.’ In the event the statements could be found ‘derogatory’ or a comment about an ‘individual’…the Court finds these terms vague and overbroad.”
Petersen was also ejected and arrested for disorderly conduct at another council meeting that same month, after he called city officials “fascist.”
Watch a report on the story below: