OSBURN, Idaho — A man arrested after he put signs in his yard and on his car because he said he wanted to make neighbors aware of sex offenders has filed a legal claim against this northern Idaho city, its police department and its police chief.
L.D. Bryson is asking for $1 million for what he said was a violation of his First Amendment rights, harassment and intimidation, emotional distress and attorney fees.
"They threatened my mom and dad if we didn't take the signs down," said Bryson, now living in nearby Kellogg and not allowed to return to the house in Osburn by court order.
Osburn Police Chief Spike Angle told the Associated Press yesterday that he could not comment on the claim filed on Dec. 22. Filing a claim is the initial process in bringing a lawsuit against a government entity.
Bryson was arrested in August and charged with libel after he placed eight signs in the yard of the home he shared with his parents in Osburn that read: "Do you have a level 3 neighbor?" and "Are your kids safe?" He spent one day in jail, and Bryson said officials told him he could face a $300 fine and six months in jail per sign.
In Idaho, libel is a criminal offense punishable by a fine up to $5,000 or imprisonment up to six months.
Bryson said he put up the signs after abduction and sexual-assault victim Shasta Groene was found with convicted sex offender Joseph Edward Duncan III. Duncan is accused of breaking into the Coeur d'Alene-area home shared by Mark McKenzie and Brenda Groene and three of her children on May 16, 2005. McKenzie, Brenda Groene and 13-year-old Slade Groene were bound and bludgeoned to death.
Authorities contend Duncan killed the couple so he could kidnap 8-year-old Shasta and her 9-year-old brother Dylan for sex. Dylan Groene's remains were found shortly after Duncan was arrested.
Some of Bryson's neighbors said they felt the signs were offensive and gave the impression that someone in the neighborhood was a sex offender. Bryson said one neighbor said that the signs made Bryson guilty of libel. Bryson said he did not intend to call attention to anyone in the neighborhood.
"The people next door don't want to believe that the signs have nothing to do with them," Bryson said. "I was making a political statement."
Bryson said it was his right to post signs on private property. He said he also put signs on his vehicle, and then moved the car to private property when police officers told him to remove the signs because the vehicle was parked on county property.
"Nothing is done to protect the children," he said. "I lived less than 100 yards away from Interstate 90. There are so many kids in that neighborhood."