A Texas woman who claims she was targeted and cyberbullied by a sheriff because of her profane anti-Trump sticker says she’s “not backing down” and is considering filing a lawsuit.
The sticker in question on Karen Fonseca’s GMC Sierra pickup reads: “F‑‑K TRUMP AND F‑‑K YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM” — but without letters dashed out.
Fonseca said Monday that the rear-window decal has frequently caught the attention of police, who have pulled her over. But the window sticker is protected by the Constitution’s guarantee of free speech, she said, and officers always let her go without much hassle.
That lack of hassle changed last week when Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls posted a photo of the truck on his personal Facebook page, saying he had received complaints from unhappy locals. His post noted that the county prosecutor was considering charging the truck’s owner with disorderly conduct.
“If you know who owns this truck or it is yours, I would like to discuss it with you,” Nehls wrote.
His threat raised alarm among free speech advocates — and caused the Republican sheriff to retreat. The Facebook post was gone Thursday, and the sheriff said he was finished talking about the matter after receiving hateful messages. (He hasn’t returned numerous messages from The Washington Post about it.)
Left unanswered: the question of what led to Fonseca being arrested on an unrelated charge by Fort Bend sheriff’s deputies last week. Nor did Fonseca’s attorneys specify what their client would sue the sheriff for; instead, the lawyers said, an investigation and “more deliberation” was necessary.
At a news conference outside the Fort Bend County Justice Center on Monday, Fonseca slammed the sheriff, who is considering a run for Congress, and accused him of pulling a political stunt.
“I’m just one person,” she said. “But if I can be used as bait for Troy Nehls to try to gain . . . supporters for him in his upcoming race for Congress against Pete Olson, then this is how the system works: Pick on the people who are vulnerable and step in and turn their lives around for gain.”
Investigators in the sheriff’s office received a tip that Fonseca had an outstanding felony warrant for fraud, according to a department spokeswoman. The warrant division of the sheriff’s office arrested her Thursday, and she was released after posting $1,500 bail.
The origin of the tip remains a mystery. A spokesperson for the Rosenberg Police Department, which issued the warrant, said it had not been in touch with the sheriff’s office.
Fonseca questioned the timing of the arrest and said the sudden increased scrutiny by law enforcement was retaliation for the Trump sticker.
Many — including the Texas branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, which offered to help Fonseca — saw the sheriff’s Facebook post as a cut-and-dried attack on Fonseca’s right to free speech.
But murkier still are the consequences of that speech. The First Amendment protects people from governmental retaliation for most of the things they say, but it doesn’t shield them from what happens when that speech goes viral and inflames other people.
Fonseca said she realized some people would be upset or even offended by her display, but she still thought the sheriff was wrong to publicly “put me on blast.”
Although the district attorney has said Fonseca won’t face criminal charges over the sticker, she said she has received nationwide notoriety and that her children and other relatives have been verbally attacked online and at school — all because she did something that is protected by the Constitution.
That, her attorney said, is the principle reason she is mulling a lawsuit against Nehls.
Fonseca also spent some time at the news conference addressing critics’ claims that the expletive-riddled sign was in poor taste.
“The f-word on the back — it’s not teaching your kids to say it or to know that word,” she said. “Most of these children have seen it way before they saw it on the back of a truck.”
She said the statement paled in comparison to some of the things President Trump has said. “If you can go out there and say . . . grab those women by the p—-, what is that statement in comparison to what’s on the back of a truck?” she said.
Last year, then-candidate Donald Trump was heard bragging about groping, kissing and trying to have sex with women on an “Access Hollywood” tape — comments made in 2005 on an apparently hot mic. Trump was heard on the archival tape saying women let him get away with it because he was “a star.” “Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything,” he said.
He was elected to the presidency a month after the tape surfaced.
On Monday, Fonseca said she won’t remove the profane anti-Trump display.
Not only that, she said, but that decal now has company — a second sticker directed at the county sheriff and his supporters.
“F–K TROY NEHLS AND F–K YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM,” it reads.