Wichita, KS — A nearly blind pro-life activist has been acquitted of battery charges that were brought after he defended a sign that an abortion clinic security guard was trying to steal.
David Schmidt, 74, who is considered legally blind, was serving as a volunteer for the Kansas Coalition for Life (KCFL) in July 2016, taking shifts outside the South Wind Women’s Center abortion facility located in Wichita, Kansas. He was wrongly arrested and jailed after the abortion business’ security guard, John Rayburn, attempted to illegally confiscate a sign that Schmidt had tied to a chair used by KCFL volunteers. A tussle over the sign ensued. [Read Operation Rescue’s original report on Schmidt’s arrest.]
Schmidt was convicted of battery in Wichita Municipal Court in February, but appealed the case to the Sedgwick County Superior Court, where he was exonerated on July 25, 2017.
Representing Schmidt at the appeal were Wichita attorney Peter Orsi and Martin Cannon of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society.
“These two guys got me out from under a pile of manure,” Schmidt told the Wichita Eaglesoon after his acquittal.
The incident that led to Schmidt’s arrest arose from the 2016 enactment of a new city sign ordinance, which bans traditionally protected forms of free speech, including the use of sidewalk chalk and signs that are not hand-held.
Rayburn told the court that he attempted to take Schmidt’s sign, thinking it was in violation of the sign ordinance.
However, the Wichita Eagle reported, “Judge Terry Pullman ruled that Rayburn had no legal right to seize the sign because he’s a private citizen and had not been trained by the city in sign-code enforcement.”
Cannon argued successfully that Schmidt had a right to defend KCFL property from theft.
“We consider the sign ordinance to be unconstitutional. The South Wind abortion clinic is using it to bully, harass and intimidate pro-life activists that are peacefully offering information and practical assistance to abortion-bound women,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue, which is based in Wichita, Kansas. “The fact that the City would willing serve as abortion facility henchmen is appallingly wrong and unacceptable.”
Just last week, another KCFL volunteer, Jennifer McCoy, informed Operation Rescue that the South Wind abortion business called the police on a 12-year old girl in McCoy’s care who was drawing with chalk on the sidewalk outside the abortion facility. The child was completely unaware of the ordinance and was just passing time coloring on the sidewalk, as children often like to do.
After some discussion, the police thankfully declined to arrest the child.