from the LaPorte Superior Court The Honorable Michael S.
Bergerson, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 46D01-1411-F5-433
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Jennifer L. Koethe LaPorte, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of
Indiana Angela N. Sanchez Deputy Attorney General
of the Case
Dorothy Williams appeals from her conviction for disorderly
conduct, as a Class B misdemeanor, following a jury trial.
She asserts on appeal that there is insufficient evidence to
support her conviction because her conviction was based on
political speech, which Williams raised as an affirmative
defense under article 1, section 9 of the Indiana
Constitution. Where, as here, the defendant is not the
original subject of a police investigation,  the defendant
demonstrates that her expression was unambiguous political
speech when she shows that the focus of her speech
exclusively concerned government action. Such speech must
both be directed at state actors and refer to state actors or
their conduct. Speech directed toward a private party or that
refers to a private party, or the conduct of a private party,
is politically ambiguous for purposes of an affirmative
defense under art. 1, sec. 9. And when the focus of speech is
politically ambiguous, a reasonable fact-finder may reject
the asserted affirmative defense.
the defendant does not meet her burden of showing that her
speech was unambiguously political, the State's
impairment of her speech-e.g., the defendant's arrest for
disorderly conduct-is constitutional so long as the State
acted rationally in impairing the speech. However, if the
defendant meets her burden of showing unambiguous political
speech, the burden shifts to the State to demonstrate that
the defendant's exercise of her speech was an abuse of
her right to that expression. While the words used by the
defendant do not matter to this analysis, the State can meet
this heightened burden in either of the following
circumstances: (1) the defendant's volume had more than a
fleeting interference with a private interest,  or (2) the
defendant interfered with an ongoing police
Here, during her encounter with police at her home, Williams
directed some of her speech toward her neighbors, and she
repeatedly referred to herself and her own conduct during the
encounter. Accordingly, the focus of her speech was
politically ambiguous for purposes of the art. 1, sec. 9
affirmative defense, and the fact-finder was free to reject
Williams' affirmative defense. As her speech was
politically ambiguous, the State's impairment of her
speech was constitutional so long as it was rational. And it
was here: the State presented evidence that some of her
neighbors, while in their homes, were actually alerted to
Williams' encounter with police by the volume of her
speech, and the State further showed that numerous officers
diverted their attention away from the task at hand because
of Williams' speech. Accordingly, we affirm Williams'
conviction for disorderly conduct, as a Class B misdemeanor.
and Procedural History
Around 6:00 a.m. on November 21, 2014, six to ten officers of
the Michigan City Police Department went to Williams'
residence on Highland Avenue to serve an arrest warrant on
Robert Sanders, Jr. Sanders is Williams' brother, and,
according to his driver's license records, Sanders lived
at Williams' residence. Williams' minor niece, V.G.,
also lived at that residence, as did Williams' elderly
and disabled mother, Rady Sanders. Rady is paralyzed from the
waist down, and Williams is responsible for Rady's care.
Detective William Henderson knocked on Williams' front
door, and Williams answered. Detective Henderson asked
Williams if Sanders was at the residence and informed
Williams that he had an arrest warrant for Sanders. Williams
"started yelling" and said that Sanders was not
there. Tr. at 59. Williams appeared "verbally and
completely irate that [the officers] were there" and
repeatedly told the officers that Sanders "didn't
live there." Id. at 60. When Detective
Henderson asked for permission to enter the residence to
ensure that Sanders was not present, Williams "slammed
the door in [his] face." Id.
Detective Henderson "continued to try and [make] verbal
contact" with Williams over the next ten to fifteen
minutes. Williams "continued yelling" at him in
response. Id. at 61. Detective Henderson then
contacted a prosecutor and requested a search warrant.
Pursuant to protocol, while they awaited the search warrant
Detective Henderson instructed the other officers at the
scene "to make sure that [they] maintained a solid
perimeter and nobody came in or out" of the residence.
Id. at 62. Detective Henderson requested the
presence of additional officers to assist with maintaining
that perimeter. Shortly thereafter, fifteen to twenty
officers total were maintaining a perimeter around
Williams' residence. The officers used unmarked vehicles
and did not activate any vehicular emergency lights or
approximately 7:00 a.m., Williams and V.G. exited the front
door of the residence. Williams walked V.G. through the
police perimeter to a nearby car, which took V.G. to her
school. When Williams walked back towards her residence,
Detective Henderson stopped her at the police perimeter and
informed her that he could not let her reenter the residence
"for safety reasons" because, first, once a person
exits a surrounded residence, "it's one less person
[the officers] have to worry [about] that has access to any
firearms or anything that could harm [others], " and,
second, if the subject of the search warrant is inside the
residence, the person who has come outside can "see
where [the officers] are tactically around [the residence],
so if [the subject] were to try to plan any assault . . .
[the officers will have] given up [their] positions . . .
." Id. at 140-41.
"After informing her of that, " Williams grew
"irate" and began "yelling, screaming, [and]
cussing" at the officers. Id. at 65. Detective
Henderson asked her to "please be quiet"
"several times, " to no avail. Id. at 140.
Officers informed Williams that she was not under arrest, and
Williams loudly asked, "You mean to tell me you are not
going to let me enter my motherf***ing house?"
Id. at 66. Williams then loudly declared,
"I'm going back in my house, " and that she was
"going back in here to see about my mother, you know my
mother's in here and she's sick, I'm going back
in here to see her." Id. at 297-98. When
informed that she would be arrested for disorderly conduct if
she continued her loud outburst, Williams loudly informed the
officers that she "doesn't care about going to
jail." Id. at 66.
response to Williams' outburst, her neighbors came out of
their nearby residences to see what was going on "like
there was a show." Id. at 68, 155. When
officers continued to deny Williams reentry into her
residence, Williams loudly asked the officers how they could
"deny my right to go back in my own home" when she
had not committed any crime and was not under arrest.
Id. at 275. Williams then proceeded to "tell my
neighbors to look and see ...