Idaho man could face fine for marring sign in his yard

Thursday, October 30, 2008

HOMEDALE, Idaho — A southwestern Idaho man could face a maximum $1,000 fine and a year in jail after defacing a campaign sign he placed in his own front yard.

Tony Lopez of Homedale said he changed his mind about a local candidate he initially agreed to support and altered the sign, adding a large black circle and a slash through the candidate's name.

Lopez earlier this year agreed to display a placard promoting Owyhee County sheriff candidate Daryl Crandall. Crandall, now an Owyhee County sheriff's deputy, is facing a write-in challenge from current Sheriff Gary Aman. Crandall beat Aman in the Republican primary in May.

Lopez said he switched his allegiance to Aman after observing officers from the Homedale Police Department attending pro-Crandall rallies while still in uniform. Though Lopez said Crandall assured him that the candidate would speak to the Homedale agency, which is separate from the county, Lopez remained dissatisfied. He then opted to customize the yard sign to illustrate his change of heart.

Lopez said Crandall arrived in his driveway about two hours after he displayed the altered sign on Oct. 25. Two Homedale officers and a reserve officer quickly came and told Lopez to remove it, Lopez said.

A 3rd District Court hearing on a charge of misdemeanor malicious injury to property is scheduled for Nov. 5, the day after the election.

The Idaho secretary of state's elections office said that typically candidates are the owners of their campaign signs. Lopez said in an interview with KTVB-TV News in Boise that the sign “was given to me.”

Homedale Police Chief Jeff Eidimiller told KTVB: “The sign doesn't belong to [Lopez]. It belongs to Daryl Crandall and his campaign. They are the owners of it, and he defaced it.”

Eidimiller said the court would decide whether the marking on the sign was free speech, as Lopez claimed.

“I thought I was exercising my freedom of expression and had no idea it would lead to court time,” Lopez told the Idaho Press-Tribune of Nampa. “It sure turned into a big deal.”

Lopez said he planned to fight the misdemeanor charge. Some local farmers and ranchers have already told him they'll cover his fine if a judge orders him to pay, he said.
“I'm flabbergasted,” he told the AP on Oct. 28. “I really am.”

Crandall didn't return a phone call from the Associated Press seeking comment. Aman declined to comment.

Since tangling with the law, Lopez has made his own plywood sign with the words “No Crandall” and a circle with a line through it. It is flanked by two signs in support of Aman.

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