A pastor who was arrested for reading the Bible to the public in California has been found not guilty by a judge.
Superior Court Judge, Timothy Freer ruled that the prosecution’s case against Pastor Brett Coronado and Mark Mackey failed to prove the law had been broken.
Pastor Coronado and Mr Mackey were outside a local Government car registration centre in February 2011, when a California Highway Patrol officer took Mr Mackey’s Bible away and arrested him.
Later, Pastor Coronado was also arrested and a non-profit religious liberty law firm Advocates for Faith and Freedom took on their case.
The Police said the group was preaching to a captive audience and were trespassing because they needed a proper permit to protest or demonstrate.
Police had originally charged the men with a crime punishable by a maximum of 90 days in prison and a $400 fine.
The defence argued that Pastor Coronado and Mr Mackey’s actions did not match the legal definition of protest or demonstration.
Defence attorney Robert Tyler said his clients were “very satisfied” with the ruling, and the case was really about protecting free speech.
He said: “In a judicial system where justice seems to be fleeting in many instances, we are very excited that we won this case and are pleased to have had a judge who seriously considered the evidence and applied the law in a fashion that was intellectually honest regardless of his personal views.”
Mr Tyler will now proceed with the civil suit that he filed against California Highway Patrol, which had been on hold pending the outcome of the trial.
And prosecutors are understood to be investigating options for an appeal of the judge’s decision.