Marijuana T-shirt case could still lead to lawsuit, says attorney Jessica Corry
Marijuana advocate Mason Tvert was pleased that a Saturday protest at Town Center of Aurora over the mall's banning of John Gailey over a "Yes We Cannabis" T-shirt was harassment-free.
John Gailey as seen on Channel 4.
Jessica Corry, Gailey's co-counsel, agrees that the mall's response represented "a step in the right direction." But she stresses that a lawsuit against the mall remains a very real possibility in light of the fact that Town Center personnel still haven't officially responded to a letter demanding an apology and a policy change.
Not that Corry and her husband, co-counsel Rob Corry, are in the dark about the mall's position. They obtained a response sent to Channel 2/31 reporter Dave Young last Thursday by A.J. Coffee, the facility's general manager. It reads:
Response Statement from Town Center at Aurora:
This is not an issue involving free speech. Mr. Gailey was asked to leave the Town Center at Aurora because he became excessively loud and belligerent and repeatedly shouted obscenities at our staff.
We strive to create the most family friendly environment possible for the comfort and safety of all our shoppers. Our code of conduct reinforces that and is displayed at each entrance to the mall. We politely asked Mr. Gailey to turn his shirt inside out in an effort to uniformly apply to our code of conduct that states appropriate and non-offensive attire must be worn at all times. Mr. Gailey became loud, disruptive and abusive to our staff at which point he was asked to leave.
Town Center at Aurora
The following day, Rob Corry sent Coffee the following note:
Dear Mr. Coffee:
In our continuing effort to resolve this matter, please provide me security video or audio tapes, or any other documentation or records, that verify your assertions [above]. I would also appreciate your clarification of how it is possible to "politely" ask an adult American citizen, quietly minding his own business, to strip his clothing, bear his chest in a public place and turn his shirt inside out, while his girlfriend watched the humiliating public encounter, which was initiated by police and security, not my client. When we take the videotaped depositions of the defendants in this case, perhaps we will enforce our office dress code and "politely" request that you remove your shirt and turn it inside out.
If you are unwilling to provide the requested information or answers at this time, please at least preserve this and all other evidence in anticipation of litigation. My letter of two days ago has been ignored, thus I am unaware of whether you or your employer are represented by counsel, or whether you prefer future communications be through your counsel. Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Thus far, says Jessica Corry, Coffee hasn't replied to this followup missive -- but the lack of action by mall security and police officers on site suggest to her that he may have learned something from subsequent coverage of the Gailey matter.
"Maybe in the future the mall and the Aurora Police will think twice before attempting to suppress political speech they disagree with," she says.
However, she continues, "we're still concerned that there hasn't been an adequate response and that our client still hasn't been provided an apology. He's still prevented from going to the mall, and although he can take his hard-earned dollars somewhere else, there's a larger principle at stake."
Several, in fact. Corry concedes that "a lot of my libertarian-leaning friends say, 'This is private property,' and that's true. But as we've pointed out, the case law sees malls in some cases as public squares. And if the Aurora mall is going to open itself up and use taxpayer dollars to operate as a public square, it needs to respect the rights of individuals."
To that end, Corry stresses that a potential lawsuit remains on the table. "We're still waiting for an apology," she says.