DENVER – ACLU of Colorado announced today that it will represent Shauna Johnson, a mother of two who was charged with “criminal tampering” after she wrote “Stop putting kids in cages” in chalk on the sidewalk outside of Rep. Ken Buck’s Castle Rock District Office.
“Shauna Johnson is a concerned constituent who wanted to communicate an urgent message to Representative Buck in opposition to mass child abuse being perpetrated by the Trump Administration at the border,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “She did no damage and intended no harm, yet she faces an overly zealous criminal prosecution, a hefty fine, and even jail time.”
Johnson brought her two children, ages 2 and 5, to Buck’s office on June 6 to discuss the Trump Administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border and to say a prayer that Rep. Buck would work to stop the policy. After 30 minutes of discussion, in which Rep. Buck’s district director defended the policy and called media reports about child detention centers “fake news,” Johnson and her children left the building.
As they were leaving, Johnson’s daughter dropped a bag containing sidewalk chalk on the ground. Johnson picked up the chalk and wrote, on the sidewalk outside the building’s entrance, “Stop putting kids in cages Ken Buck.” She added a cross and signed it “Jesus.”
“Family separation is a moral outrage, and I wanted to express that outrage,” said Johnson. “It never occurred to me that I was doing anything wrong, as I wasn’t damaging any property or blocking any doors. I was just speaking and hoping that my message would appeal to Representative Buck’s humanity and convince him to take action to stop the policy.”
Three hours later, a Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy came to Johnson’s house and issued her a citation for 2nd degree criminal tampering, a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by 3 to 12 months in jail and up to a $1000 fine.
The deputy also told Johnson that if she returned to Buck’s office without an appointment, she could be charged with trespass.
According to the statute Johnson is charged with violating, a person commits criminal tampering if he or she “tampers with property of another with intent to cause injury, inconvenience, or annoyance to that person or to another.”
“There is not a single reported case in the history of Colorado where a person has been prosecuted for criminal tampering based on writing a message or drawing in chalk,” said ACLU cooperating attorney Adam Frank of Frank & Salahuddin LLC. “Clearly, this criminal charge is a response to the content of her message, not the conduct itself. We’ll be asking the district attorney to dismiss this prosecution.”
Johnson’s first appearance in Douglas County Court is scheduled for August 19. She will be represented by Frank and Silverstein, as well as ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Sara Neel.