Attorney to challenge Middletown law for man arrested at Pride event

John M. Williams, 42, of Middletown, was arrested by Sgt. Cris Kelly and charged with generating unreasonable noise, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, during the second annual Middletown Pride event. A bench trial will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 3, according to court documents. SUBMITTED
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John M. Williams, 42, of Middletown, was arrested by Sgt. Cris Kelly and charged with generating unreasonable noise, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, during the second annual Middletown Pride event. A bench trial will be held at 10 a.m. Oct. 3, according to court documents. SUBMITTED

A bench trial has been scheduled for a Middletown man charged with generating unreasonable noise, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, during the second annual Middletown Pride event this summer.

The pre-trial hearing for John M. Williams was held Thursday morning in Middletown Municipal Court, and Judge James Sherron set the bench trial for 10 a.m. on Oct. 3, according to court documents.

Williams, 42, was arrested on June 21 and taken to Middletown City Jail, and he posted 10 percent of his $1,500 bond. Williams then returned to the event without further incident, he said.

Williams said he, his family and others attended the Pride event to preach against “all sin.”

Williams, who identifies himself as an open-air preacher, said he wasn’t using a megaphone when he was arrested.

In the police report, Sgt. Cris Kelly wrote he saw Williams carrying an amplified megaphone, something he had been warned against in the past. He wrote that Williams powered on the megaphone, which was slung over his shoulder.

Williams held the megaphone while another person spoke, according to the police report. Kelly said he could hear the megaphone from about 100 feet away, a violation of the city ordinance.

The city ordinance, in part, says: “No person shall generate or permit to be generated unreasonable noise or loud sounds which is likely to cause inconvenience or annoyance to persons or ordinary sensibilities, by means of a radio, phonograph, television, tape or disc player, loudspeaker or any sound-amplifying device, or by means of any horn, drum, piano or other musical or percussion instrument.”

Earlier, attorney Thomas Condit, who represents Williams, said he would challenge the city’s ordinance. Condit told the Journal-News that “based on facts,” Williams didn’t violate the city’s ordinance.

Condit said Williams was holding the amplified megaphone and wasn’t speaking. He said the ordinance is “vague” and it doesn’t give citizens “fair notice what a crime is.”

He also questioned what it means to be “heard” more than 100 feet away. He said surrounding noise could impact the distance a voice carries, so how could someone know if they’re breaking the law.

“What’s the point of the ordinance?” Condit asked. “It’s all free speech stuff. You start eliminating free speech.”