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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional
Review / DEVELOPMENTS IN ORANGE, RIVERSIDE, SAN BERNARDINO
AND VENTURA COUNTIES

Gadfly Gets 30 Days in Jail for Disrupting Meetings

August 10, 2000

SAN BERNARDINO — A judge sent a well-known local gadfly to jail Wednesday for disrupting meetings of the Board of Supervisors.

Superior Court Judge Christopher Warner sentenced Bob Nelson to a 30-day term--along with three years' probation, community service and a fine of $110--after rejecting a plea that he be spared time in jail.

San Bernardino lawyer Allen Bartleman argued that any jail time would have a chilling effect on free speech in the county. Nelson has been arrested 39 times at supervisors' meetings and was charged for speaking too long--one of several local activists who have been prosecuted.

Warner, however, said the court needs to encourage proper behavior at public meetings. "If everyone behaved in that fashion, we would have anarchy," Warner said.

Nelson, 63, plans to appeal the sentence, contending that jail time is too harsh. He assured the judge, however, that he would abide by terms of his probation, which include observing the rules at public meetings.

He will serve his jail term on weekends beginning next month. With time off for good behavior, Nelson is expected to serve only 18 of the 30 days.

Christine Harper, Nelson's daughter, said she was disappointed that his sentence included jail time, but she is proud of her father's efforts as a government watchdog.

"I'm glad he's out there," she said.

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