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First appeal to superior court from protest verdicts nets same result: guilty, this time by a jury

An Alamance County jury has convicted a Black Lives Matter activist of misdemeanor disorderly conduct in a public building and resisting arrest – his second conviction on the same charges this year – at the close of his two-day trial in superior court late last month.

Regis Kishon (“Shon”) Green, 29, black, male, of 4600 University Drive, Durham, was previously found guilty on both charges in district court this spring. He had been among several protesters who were arrested after barging into an Alamance County commissioners’ meeting on November 16, 2020. Green had also been a frequent presence at other BLM protests in Graham during the second half of 2020.

Regis Kishon (“Shon”) Green

During his first trial in district court and subsequent jury trial in superior court last month, Green’s defense attorney, Jamie Paulen of Paulen Solidarity Law, unsuccessfully argued that the profanity her client had unleashed on the commissioners and sheriff’s deputies last November is protected under the First Amendment.

Green admitted during his first trial that he’d yelled “[Expletive] you” and made a lewd hand gesture after he was ejected from the commissioners’ meeting last November. He said he and several other activists had gone to the meeting that night to speak against the pepper spray that law enforcement had used to disperse a crowd of approximately 200 during the “I Am Change Legacy March to the Polls” in downtown Graham on October 31. Green also admitted under cross-examination to having been angry about “the injustice” of how the marchers had been treated.

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Alamance County assistant district attorney Kevin Harrison countered in his closing statement that being angry didn’t constitute a legal defense, calling it “an absolute mischaracterization” to suggest that Green just said, “[Expletive] you” and walked out the night of November 16, 2020.


DURHAM ACTIVIST GREEN HAD BEEN FREQUENT PRESENCE DURING 2020 PROTESTS IN GRAHAM:

Regis Kishon “Shon” Green before his first arrest later on October 31, 2020 during a march and rally in downtown Graham. Here, Graham police direct Green to get out of the street. When protesters did not respond to that directive, Graham officers used pepper spray, aimed at their feet, to get them to comply. Later sheriff’s deputies and police would use pepper spray to force protesters to disperse from the courthouse grounds when the rally was declared unlawful after a gas-powered generator and two gas cans were discovered, in violation of the permit issued to the demonstration’s organizer, Rev. Greg Drumwright of Greensboro.


Paulen contended that Green’s profanity is nonetheless constitutionally-protected speech.

North Carolina case law has established that profanity is protected under the First Amendment, she said, citing an order that U.S. district court judge Catherine Eagles entered in April 2021, which stipulated that profanity is protected by the First Amendment and doesn’t constitute lawful grounds for arrest, unless it meets the legal definition of “fighting words.”

Retired visiting district court judge Lunsford Long, III of Orange County, who has presided over all of the 2020 protest trials in Alamance County district court, disagreed, finding Green guilty in May of disorderly conduct in a public building and resisting arrest.

During her closing summation at Green’s subsequent trial Alamance County superior court late last month, Paulen reiterated the words, “[expletive] you” to the jury to illustrate her contention that profanity is protected under the First Amendment.

Jurors deliberated less than half an hour before finding Green guilty of both charges at the conclusion of his trial in superior court, which ran two days, excluding a half-day for jury selection.

Judge Thomas H. Lock, senior resident superior court judge for the judicial district that includes Harnett, Johnston, and Lee counties, presided over Green’s trial in Alamance County superior court last month.

Paulen has vowed to appeal Green’s subsequent convictions to the N.C. Court of Appeals.
Green was previously convicted of misdemeanor failure to disperse during the October 31 protest. While Long had offered to consolidate the judgments for his convictions on the October 31 and November 16 charges, Paulen rejected that offer, instead giving notice of appeal at the close of Green’s first trial.

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