CINCINNATI — A man who says he was charged with disorderly conduct after using the word crippled to promote a comedian with muscular dystrophy claims Cincinnati police violated his free speech rights, and the comedian agrees.
The case against Forest Thomer of Cold Spring was to be heard in a Cincinnati courtroom Wednesday but was postponed until July 17. Cincinnati police cited Thomer last month at a park after he and comedian Ally Bruener say he asked people if they wanted to "laugh at the crippled girl."
The question was not intended to demean his friend Bruener but to promote her next comedy show and her Web site, the two said. Bruener, who is in a wheelchair because of the degenerative muscle disorder, said she would approach people after Thomer asked them the question, tell a joke and talk about her next performance. Thomer also would record some of the responses for use on Bruener's Web site, showing people saying: "I laughed at the crippled girl."
Thomer, 25, was cited May 23 on a disorderly conduct charge alleging that he walked into people and shouted obscenities at them, according to court records. He was asked to stop but "persisted in yelling and shouting, causing annoyance and alarm to others," according to the complaint in Hamilton County Municipal Court. Thomer could face up to 30 days in jail if convicted of the fourth-degree misdemeanor charge, a court official said.
"We were just going up to people and asking the question," said Thomer, who denies all of the allegations.
Lt. Anthony Carter, a Cincinnati police spokesman, declined to comment.
Bruener, 23, of Alexandria, in Northern Kentucky, said "people are trying to be too politically correct and force us to be as well."
The idea was to get people's attention and help them "let down their guard a bit," said Bruener, who says she uses her humor to try to remove any stigma from the word crippled.
"I don't think words have power until you react negatively to them," she said.
Thomer and Bruener said they were at a Party in the Park event in downtown Cincinnati when police approached them. Police did not take him to jail after he told them he was Bruener's only ride, Thomer said.