Prosecution Doubles Down, Won’t Accept Dismissal of Charges Against Pastor in Drag Queen Case
A high-profile prosecution of a pastor over Drag Queen Story Hour has taken another twist. In early December, the Honorable Judge Staab dismissed all criminal charges against Pastor Afshin Yaghtin. But two days before Christmas, the pastor and his attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) received an unwanted gift: prosecutors asked the court to reconsider its ruling and reinstate the charges.
Good news quickly followed, the judge denied this request on December 31, 2019. The two rulings of the Judge have not stopped the prosecution from pursing Yaghtin; they have decided to appeal to the Superior Court of Spokane.
As PJI previously reported, the police arrested Yaghtin after he questioned the police’s favorable treatment of supporters and unfavorable treatment of anyone they perceived to be non-supportive of a Drag Queen Story Hour at a Spokane library. The pastor declined to retreat across the street to a “protester” zone when he did not consider himself a protestor but rather an observer. The judge dismissed the case on PJI’s motion on December 2, 2019 by ruling that “… the scope of the protest zones were expanded to include anyone attending the event who had an opinion about the event, regardless of whether they were protesting or creating a disturbance.” The judge dismissed on these grounds.
The prosecutors’ unrelenting pursuit and extreme characterization of Yaghtin’s speech has reached an alarming level. The prosecution claims that Yaghtin was using “offensive language that could incite violence” and was trying to “advance his public protest and profile.” For added context, the prosecutor recently took down his social media post which mentioned “religious loonies” associated with this case.
Jorge Ramos, the Seattle attorney for PJI who represented Yaghtin, commented, “The judge emphasized that law enforcement told Pastor Afshin to move based on his expressed beliefs, they do not argue against this. We are grateful that the judge reaffirmed her decision and disregarded the prosecution’s escalated rhetoric. Unfortunately, our focus now must shift to the Court of Appeals.”
Brad Dacus, president of PJI, noted, “We at PJI are engaged in serious battles in cities across the country who are criminally prosecuting individuals because of their Christian faith. We are very thankful for our supporters who allow us to represent those whose constitutionally protected rights are at risk, free of charge.”