Benton man found guilty for conduct at 2008 Ham Festival
by Franklin Clark, Reporter -- fclark@cadizrecord.com
Sep 02, 2009 | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A 79-year-old Benton man was found guilty of second degree disorderly conduct and was fined $250 at the first trial held last Friday at the new Trigg County Justice Center, a trial relating to an incident involving a 2008 Ham Festival Parade float that contained a profane word.

Although the jury selection and trial combined took a day, the jury took less than 30 minutes to deliver a guilty verdict with the lowest possible sentence for Clarence Jay Latham, who was reportedly trying to display a controversial sign on his float.

Commonwealth’s Assistant Attorney for Trigg County Duncan Cavanaugh of Hopkinsville and defense attorney Irwin Cutlier of Louisville took about an hour and a half to seat a jury of six people, with the trial underway by about 10:30 a.m.

During the trial, Cavanaugh called as witnesses Trigg County Ham Festival Parade Chairman Craig Fowler as well as Officers Matt Dolezal and Chad Grace of the Cadiz Police Department. Grace testified that he was the arresting officer.

Cutler called Mallory Lawrence, former U.S. Congressman Carroll Hubbard, who testified via deposition, Lacy Wallace of Princeton and Latham.

Fowler told the jury that the parade entry forms have rules, regulations and guidelines that the applicant agrees to follow, and added that Latham was asked to take his spinner signage and leave the parade because his sign included a profane word.

After that, Fowler said he called the CPD to have Latham removed from the Trigg County Middle School parking lot, where the parade floats were congregating prior to the parade.

Fowler also said he was cordial with Latham, something Latham disagreed with when he took the stand later in the day.

Grace said that when Latham was asked to leave the parade he started becoming agitated and uncooperative, and added that Latham was told that he would be arrested if he didn’t leave.

On the defense side, Mallory Lawrence, co-owner of Hancock’s Neighborhood Market, testified that officer arrived at the parking lot quickly, and added that she didn’t see or hear any profanity, loud speaking or strange behavior from Latham, although she did see him with both his head and his arms down.

Latham said that when Fowler approached him he used a racial slur about a T-shirt he was wearing that featured now U.S. President Barack Obama and told him he would have to leave due to the profanity on his sign, although Latham went on to say that he didn’t understand what he had done wrong and didn’t know he was going to be arrested.

Latham also said that although the police officers raised their voices, he never did, nor did he swear at them.

Latham was arrested on Oct. 12, 2008, near Trigg County High School during the ham parade on a disorderly conduct charge, according to a report from the Cadiz Police Department.

The report states that during the parade, Latham was on a float that had a sign that had what were described in the report as “explicit sayings.” The report doesn’t specify the nature of the sayings.

However, Dolezal testified that the sign on the float said something to the effect of “Grinder for Republican spin, lies and b-------.”

The Ham Festival Committee told Latham that they didn’t want him in the parade, and the police asked him to leave after being called by committee members, at which point Latham “caused a scene,” the original report said, adding that Latham became an annoyance to the people that witnessed the event.

Cavanaugh said that while he was pleased with the verdict, the trial ran longer than it should have, which he attributed both to the number of witnesses called and to small problems with the new justice center, adding that he was expecting the trial to take only half a day.

Cutler said he was disappointed with the verdict because his client was practicing his first amendment rights, and also said he and Latham would discuss the possibility of appealing the conviction.
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