Criminal charges for Gilbert political sign stealing dropped - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Criminal charges for Gilbert political sign stealing dropped

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Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 1:14 pm

The Maricopa County Attorney’s office said last week it intends to drop criminal charges against Roberta Smith, a former Gilbert Chamber of Commerce board member accused of removing signs related to the town’s 2011 elections.

According to an April 11 letter from deputy county attorney J. Raimondo addressed to Gilbert resident Steve Johnson, charge against Smith – the unlawful removal of a political sign, a class one misdemeanor – was dropped “without prejudice because there is no reasonable likelihood of a conviction at this time.”

During the town’s 2011 election run, Johnson reportedly put up about 100 signs in the community stating “Shame on Gilbert.” Johnson, who also runs the website – operating as part of the Committee to Restore Integrity to Gilbert – was not running for office but said in numerous reports that his interests and the interests of all Gilbert residents were tied to the results of the town council election.

It was alleged that Smith was a friend of then-Gilbert councilmember Linda Abbott, who at the time was seeking reelection but was defeated.

Raimondo’s letter stated that under the Gilbert Municipal Code, signs are political when “erected for the purpose of influencing an election.” The letter went on to say that Johnson’s signs were “ideological,” and not “political,” and therefore weren’t protected from removal by the Gilbert Code.

On the website, a quote attributed to Johnson stated: “There is nothing more sacred to Americans and our Constitution than the right to political free speech. When I was called by the news media about this event, it was the removal of ‘political’ signs that caught their attention. Make no mistake – these signs influenced the outcome of the election and cannot be reasonably construed as merely ideological.”

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