(VitalNews.org) – A 76-year-old woman from Texas has been given permission to have her case heard by the Supreme Court after she alleged that local politicians abused their power to prevent her from exercising her right to free speech.
Sylvia Gonzalez, a 76-year-old grandmother from Castle Hills in Texas, won a seat on the town’s council in 2019 after promising to seek the replacement of City Manager, Ryan Rapelye. As per her original aim, she created a petition and gathered signatures before taking it to a city council meeting. At the end of the meeting, she picked up the petition along with many other documents and placed them in her binder before making her way across the room to speak to a constituent. Shortly after this, a police officer who had been present at the meeting informed her that the mayor wished to speak to her.
Gonzalez went to speak with Mayor Trevino, a supporter of Rapelye, along with the police officer. Trevino asked Gonzalez where the petition was. At first, she told him that she thought she had it, but then checked in her binder and found it. The mayor commented that she had likely put it there by accident and Gonzalez agreed with this assessment. Despite claiming to believe that it was a simple mistake, Trevino launched an investigation into the matter along with Police Chief John Siemens.
Trevino soon hired his friend and attorney, Alexander Wright, to act as a special detective. Wright soon filed an arrest affidavit that accused Gonzalez with intentionally removing a government record, even though she herself had created and promoted said petition. He also sought an arrest warrant, rather than a summons, which meant that once Gonzalez turned herself in, she was arrested and kept in a police cell for a day. The charges were dropped, but Gonzalez was so upset by the experience that she dropped out of politics altogether, resigning her seat on the council.
With the help of the Institute for Justice, she brought a lawsuit against city officials in 2020, claiming that Trevino, Wright, and Siemens had orchestrated her arrest as a method of punishing her for her opposition to Rapelye, and in so doing had contravened her First Amendment rights. The case has worked its way through various courts since, with the Supreme Court agreeing on Friday, October 13 to hear her case.
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