EASTON, Pa. (AP) — A man who was kicked out of a televised town hall for seeming to suggest that Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s daughter had been kidnapped won’t face charges.
Simon Radecki’s question was inappropriate and offensive but was within the bounds of free speech, District Attorney John Morganelli said Monday, overruling police who initially planned to charge him.
Radecki, a 28-year-old activist, was picked ahead of time to be one of Toomey’s questioners at the Aug. 31 event at a PBS station in Bethlehem. When it was his turn, he thanked Toomey for taking questions but then veered off-script and said: “I know we’ve been here a while. You probably haven’t seen the news. Can you confirm whether or not your daughter Bridget has been kidnapped?”
Police yanked Radecki off stage as he continued, “The reason I ask is because that’s the reality of families that suffer deportation … .”
Nothing happened to Toomey’s daughter, and Toomey called it a “ridiculous question.” The rest of the town hall went on without incident.
Radecki said later he was trying to make a point about how immigrant parents live in fear that children brought to the U.S. illegally will be deported. President Donald Trump recently ended a program from President Barack Obama’s administration that offered protection to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.
Bethlehem police initially told Radecki he would be charged, but Morganelli told them to hold off while he reviewed the case.
The prosecutor said he considered two charges — disrupting a public meeting and disorderly conduct — and concluded that Radecki broke no law.
“Clearly, Mr. Radecki’s question was stated in a callous manner without regard for what impact it might have on Senator Toomey” or his family, Morganelli said. “Nevertheless, the criminal law cannot be utilized to remedy insensitive conduct.”
Morganelli, a Democrat, informed Toomey of his decision via text. Toomey replied that he understood, the prosecutor said.
Toomey’s spokesman, Steve Kelly, called Radecki’s question “reprehensible” and “inherently threatening,” but he said the senator accepted Morganelli’s legal judgment.
Radecki did not return messages seeking comment Monday.
Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Pennsylvania chapter, said Morganelli made the right call.
“The government can’t prosecute people for asking elected officials dumb, provocative or even offensive questions, just like prosecutors can’t charge politicians for making stupid and insulting statements (boy would they be busy!),” Walczak said via email. “Freedom of speech doesn’t always produce kind, thoughtful and wise expression.”
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