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Shawn Miller

I spent 109 days in jail. I know that there are misguided Street Preachers (like Saul before he was Paul). I read that JESUS was a friend of the sinner. How can we win anyone if we are yelling at them? JESUS said the world is already condemned.
ACLU Defends Portales Street Preacher
Thursday, August 4th, 2005
Peter Simonson, Executive Director, ACLU of New Mexico at 505-266-4622 or (cell) 505-620-0775
Portales--Some deft legal work by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico succeeded in freeing street preacher Shawn Miller from the Roosevelt County jail yesterday. Portales police arrested Miller for disorderly conduct on April 17th because allegedly he was yelling at passing cars. Miller maintains that he was merely "preaching the word of God."
ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson said, "Mr. Miller has a guaranteed right to stand on a street corner and proclaim his faith in God to all who pass by. He wasn’t harassing or intimidating anyone. He certainly should not have spent time under lock and key for such a minor incident."
The ACLU became involved after Miller’s wife, Theresa, sent a letter requesting assistance. She and her two children had been with Miller on the day he was arrested. He was preaching in the lot of an abandoned gas station that is commonly used by street vendors. "I was preaching the word of God and not hurting anybody," said Miller.
The ACLU’s defense of Miller produced an unlikely collaboration with the American Family Association, a group that is at times at odds with ACLU positions. Attorneys from both groups consulted with each other and Miller, working together to defend him on First Amendment grounds.
"Both organizations are highly principled in their philosophies and policy positions," said ACLU Staff Attorney George Bach. "Where those principles overlap, we are eager to collaborate."
Miller was released on bond and still faces charges of disorderly conduct, in addition to resisting arrest.
And in two newspapers:
My wife, our two children, and I had been going for three months to this same abandoned gas station without any incident. We were simply having a quiet Bible study on Sunday morning. The bank across the street is closed. There are two churches (Baptist & Methodist) on opposite corners from us. There is a minimal amount of car traffic and no pedestrian traffic. We are NOT there to be heard. We are simply there trying to let our light shine. We are NOT yelling at anyone because there is no one around. Sure, cars pass and see us, but there is no way we are disturbing them since we are 15 feet away from the sidewalk. This police officer decided to pick on us that day for some unknown reason. Officer Smart, Officer Wilson, and an animal control officer were in the parking lot adjacent to us at about 9:45 and they stayed for about 20-30 minutes. Then they all left. A sheriff's deputy watched us for about five minutes a week before that day. Many police cars had driven by throughout the previous months WITHOUT incident. Officer Smart then came back at 11:05. I went over to him and extended my hand and said, "What is the problem, officer?" He said, "You need to tone it down." I said, "I am preaching to my family and we are not bothering anyone. This is free speech and you can not stop me." He said, "We have been getting phone calls about you pointing and yelling at cars." I said, "I was not yelling at cars and was not pointing and I was not bothering anyone. This is free speech and you can not stop me. If you have a problem with me being on this property, I will go to the sidewalk." He said, "I do not have a problem with you being here, you just need to tone it down." I said, "If you are going to arrest me, I am going to go to the sidewalk because it is public property." So I went to the sidewalk (for the first time). By this time, Officer Wilson arrived. Officer Smart looked at Officer Wilson as I was walking away to the sidewalk and they both shrugged. I was standing on the sidewalk looking at the officers. Officer Smart said, "Come back here." I did not want to get arrested for trespassing, so I stayed where I was. I said, "No, I am staying on the sidewalk because it is public property." He then came towards me. I have seen the TV show "COPS." I thought it best to get on my knees and put my hands in the air to show that I was not resisting arrest. At this time, a University police officer also drove up. So, there were three police cars at this abandoned gas station, obviously causing much attention and causing people to rubberneck. Officer Smart came and handcuffed me and took me to his car. I said, "There are drug dealers and bars in this town and people getting killed, but that’s ok, I'll gladly be arrested for preaching the Gospel." When I got to his car, I asked, "Why am I being arrested?" He said, "For disorderly conduct and obstruction. You can not walk away from me if I am asking you questions."
Here is a list of disputable statements that Officer Smart made in his statement of probable cause when he arrested Shawn on April 17:
(1) Officer Smart states that at approximately 1105 hours he was dispatched to 2nd St. and Ave C in reference to a subject “yelling” at vehicles driving by:
--Officer Smart’s statement does not mention anything about being at the self-pay gas station next to where we were earlier that morning; he doesn’t state why he was there at that time: was he dispatched, or was he there out of his own choice?
--Was Officer Smart dispatched as a result of a 911 call? Is there a recording of the call or can a transcript of the conversation be obtained?

(2) Officer Smart states Shawn was “standing in the area”:
--What area exactly was Shawn standing in?

(3) Officer Smart states Shawn appeared to be attempting to call out to vehicle occupants as the drove by:
--Shawn was facing Matthew, Michelle, and me as we sat in a semi-circle in our folding chairs facing him. The three of us had our backs to 2nd St. and Shawn was facing the street, but we were between him and the street. Officer Smart would have been able to see that Shawn was talking to us because he pulled into the abandoned gas station parking lot right next to where our chairs were positioned and where Shawn was standing. Officer Smart would have been able to see that we were interacting with Shawn as well as Shawn talking to us.

(4) Officer Smart states he attempted to advise him of his presence:
--How exactly was he attempting to advise Shawn of his presence? Shawn was aware of Officer Smart’s presence; Shawn had walked over to Officer Smart’s police car when Officer Smart got out of his car.
(5) Officer Smart states he repeatedly told Shawn to calm down and listen and Shawn continued to get louder with his objections each time Officer Smart tried to discuss the issue:
--What was the issue that Officer Smart was trying to discuss with Shawn?
--The only thing Shawn told Officer Smart was that he had the right to free speech and he had the right to preach out on the streets.
(6) Officer Smart states Shawn walked back to the curb:
--Shawn had never been at the curb to have walked back to it; Shawn has never stood on the curb during any of our street meetings.
(7) Officer Smart states that Shawn continued “yelling” out at vehicles:
--There were only two things Shawn said when he was standing on the curb and both statements were to Officer Smart:
1) He told Officer Smart he had the right to preach on the sidewalk because it was public property;
2) When Officer Smart told Shawn to come back to where he was, Shawn told Officer Smart that he would stay on the sidewalk because it was public property (in Officer Smart’s statement, he doesn’t even mention this part of the conversation with Shawn)

--Shawn did not yell anything out to the vehicles that were passing; his comments were only directed at Officer Smart.
(8) Officer Smart states that he once again advised Shawn to stop and at that point he got down on his knees and began waving his arms above his head:
--Shawn got on his knees and raised his hands over his head as soon as Officer Smart took a step toward him to let Officer Smart know he was not resisting him or anything. Shawn was not waving his hands over his head; and the only thing he said when he got to his knees was that he had the right to preach on the sidewalk.
(9) Officer Smart states that as Shawn’s actions were disrupting the flow of traffic he advised Shawn if he did not stop he would arrest him and Shawn’s reaction was “I don‘t have to listen to you”:
--Officer Smart never told Shawn that if he didn’t stop he would arrest him; Officer Smart just walked over to where Shawn was on the sidewalk, got out his handcuffs, and arrested him.
--As previously stated, the only thing Shawn said when he was on his knees was that he had the right to preach on the sidewalk.

Two other quick points concerning Officer Smart:
(1) Officer Smart did not read Shawn his Miranda Rights; you can see that on the arrest report and Shawn has stated that he was not read his rights.
(2) Officer Smart does not mention his conversation with me: after he arrested Shawn and put him in the back of his police car, Officer Smart handed me Shawn’s keys and told me Shawn was being arrested for obstruction. He said when someone complains, he has to do something about it. I told Officer Smart that Shawn was not yelling at the passing cars; the four of us were simply having our bible study out here on the streets. Officer Smart then told me he had no problem with us practicing religion on the streets but people can’t walk away from him when he’s talking to them. From my standpoint, it appears that Officer Smart got mad that Shawn walked away from him to the curb. Shawn told him he was walking to the curb as he walked away, and Shawn walked to the curb so he wouldn’t get in trouble for trespassing again since the trespassing charge in January was not yet cleared up. I did not tell this to Officer Smart at the time; I don’t know if it would have helped if I had.
This is from Teresa Miller.
Thank you,
Shawn Miller
912 S. Ave. A
Portales, NM 88130


Y'know I'm with the preacher man here. Frankly I abhor people who stand on street corner telling me who I should and shouldn't worship. I don't know this person and I already don't like him. But just because you feel intimidated doesn't mean he should be thrown in jail. All sorts of people intimidate me and I think I am a lot less subject to imtimidation than most people. But the ACLU is right -- this man has the right to stand on a street corner and preach. I have the right to stand on another street corner and preach. As long as we aren't inciting riots or shit like that -- then we have this right.

Because of this right, you can hang out a shingle with this website and stand up on your soapbox espousing your views for all the world to see. Don't knock it.

Its wrong to espouse throwing someone in prison simply because his views annoy you or intimidate you.


Let me add and be quite clear in case the Millers read this. Millers: I think what you are doing is despicable. I think you are forcing your religion on other people. There are people who probably can't avoid passing you on the street and hearing you espouse your religion. Just because you have the right to preach on the sidewalk doesn't mean its a good idea. It's not. Its annoying. It's intimidating for some. It's downright rude. I am Wiccan and I don't hold my circles in public parks -- I find a place where my coven and I can worship in peace. By holding your bible study in public you are not worshipping -- you are trying to make a point. You are doing something political. You are not worshipping. Lets be real clear about what your actions are and what they are not.

I'll defend your right to preach in the street because I think our right to free speech should not be restricted other than in the case of security (national or otherwise) or keeping the peace. But you aren't worshipping -- you are making some sort of political statement. Hell you were probably hoping to be thrown in jail. Now that you've made a public spectacle out of yourself and had the ACLU jump to your defense, you'll no doubt be preaching louder and be even more obnoxious. You probably found this site by google-ing your own name and Portales so that you could comment here and grow the comments.

Don't even try to tell me that this is the best place for you to hold your bible study. I bet if it was 20 or 120 degrees outside you'd find some other place was more convenient real fast. So bully for you for getting the ACLU on your side and making a public spectacle out of yourself. Just remember -- it isn't worship -- its making a public spectacle out of yourself.

You want to worship, you go do that. It probably won't get you much press though.


You may have noticed that in my last paragraph I said I'd support the police if their version of events is true (specifically the interfering with traffic part). Based on what Mr. Miller's posted, I'm having some doubts. I also don't understand what kind of sentencing they do in NM, to give you more than 90 days in jail for what you were charged with (though I suppose resisting arrest can carry up to 6 months or more).

I'm also glad to hear that you seem to really pay attention to, and preach, what Jesus said. Just about everything I've seen said by him, as recounted in the Bible, is about love and forgiveness; it's good to know that there are still street preachers who remember that.

Shawn Miller

Three Articles Written about this experience:

October 17, 2005
Dear Shawn,
Good news:
The D.A. issue a “nolle prosequi” in your case, which means she “will no further prosecute” it (you may hear it called a “NO LE PROS”). More informally, it is generally taken to mean that a district attorney either did not feel pursuing the case was in the interest of justice or that there wasn’t enough there substantively to pursue it. Technically, they retain the right to re-charge you at some point, but that is highly unlikely in your situation.
I can fax you a copy of the document if you need – and will mail you one today.
At some point, I will take a look at the NM law to see when exactly, we can also request that your arrest record be expunged so that you are not dealing with even that in terms of background checks. But for now, you are currently free of all charges, pending trials, bail, etc.
I have various meetings this evening, but please give me a call tomorrow at work or let me know when a good time to call you is.
Best regards,
George Bach
Staff Attorney - ACLU of New Mexico
P.O. Box 566 Albuquerque, NM 87103-0566
(505) 243-0046 FAX: (505) 266-5916

This was in the paper the other day:

Charges dropped against Portales street preacher
Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office has dropped charges against a street preacher accused of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Deputy District Attorney Donna Mowrer dropped the charges on Oct. 19 in Portales Magistrate Court.

Shawn Miller, 33, was arrested the morning of April 17 for causing a disturbance to motorists, according to Portales police reports. Officer Charles Smart was dispatched in reference to a subject yelling at passing vehicles.

Miller repeatedly told Smart he didn’t have to listen to him because he was preaching the word of God and wasn’t doing anything wrong, according to the police incident report. Miller walked away from the police officer and continued yelling at vehicles, at which time he was arrested for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the report said.
“Every person in the town knew what we were doing,” Miller said. “We were there without incident. We never caused a scene. We were never screaming and hollering, nor were we bothering anyone.”

Mowrer said charges were dropped against Miller because he had expressed a desire to move out of state with no intent of returning.

“It wouldn’t be a good use of the state’s funds (to prosecute the case), Mowrer said.

She said the decision was made after discussion with District Attorney Matt Chandler.

If Miller had been convicted of the charges against him, he faced a maximum punishment of 1 1/2 years in jail.

Law enforcement authorities said at the time of Miller’s arrest that his preaching was creating a disturbance to passing motorists; they said he was arrested because he did not give a responding officer any opportunity to remedy the situation.

Miller said he feels he was not treated fairly during the process.

“I was abandoned in jail for 109 days,” Miller said. “ As you could probably imagine, my life has been complete chaos since April. I have been totally dependent on God and our family. We do not have a car, job, or savings. This totally wiped us out.”

Mowrer said Miller was eligible for bond during the time he was incarcerated at the Roosevelt County Detention Center.
Miller was released in early August from RCDC. He posted a $3,000 appearance bond. At that time he was receiving assistance in his defense from the American Civil Liberties Union.

Miller is now living in Moselle, Miss., with his wife’s grandparents. Miller said this experience won’t necessarily keep him from coming back to Portales.

“I will indeed come back to Portales,” Miller said. “I would like to open a ranch of refuge. It will be a place for people who have been cast out by society.”

Mowrer said she could refile charges against Miller if he returns to the community.

“That’s something I would consider,” she said. “It would be speculation to say at this point.”

PNT Managing Editor Karl Terry contributed to this report.


As you could probably imagine, my life has been complete chaos since April. If it had not been for the ACLU, I would still be in jail. My public defender, Steve McIlwain, was convinced that I was incompetent to stand trial and was forcing me to take a psychiatric evaluation. The judge even revoked my ability to get bond because of this (the bond was originally set at $3,000 cash only).
I am seeking damages from the county and the right to not be publicly humiliated for peaceably being on a street corner. I believe my constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of religion, and right to assemble were violated and therefore, I was falsely arrested and falsely imprisoned for 109 days. I also believe that the bail was excessive by demanding it all in cash. I believe that my public defender never represented me and my interests.
We left New Mexico on September 3. We passed through Louisiana and came to Mississippi right after Hurricane Katrina to stay with my wife's grandparents. They were without power for almost three weeks, there was no phone service, and there were no chances of getting a job there, and since we have no car, I called my mom to come and get us and we went to stay with her in Pensacola, FL. In Florida, background checks are done by every employer prior to employment. I am a commercial driver and I was offered several jobs but was turned down due to the companies' policies after my background check showed a pending court case. I was unable to even a get a job at a grocery store. Needless to say, I was completely devastated. My mom was expecting us to be able to start over by buying a car and buying a home, but that was not possible because of the background checks. So, after a month of beating my head against the wall, we came back to Mississippi to find work here.

I still have several unanswered questions:
(1) Why did this happen in the first place? We had been at this parking lot every Sunday morning for three months. This is a small town. Police would often pass by. Every person in the town knew what we were doing. We were there without incident. We never caused a scene. We were never screaming and hollering, nor were we bothering anyone.
(2) Why did Officer Smart, Officer Wilson, and an animal control officer come and observe us for 15-20 minutes and then leave?
(3) Why did Officer Smart come back?
(4) Why did Officer Smart say I was pointing and yelling at cars and why did Captain Berry say I was standing in the median when there is no median at that location? Officer Smart said that I was "in the area" when he arrived. I was in the same exact spot I had been when he was there earlier and I was in the same exact spot that I had always been at for the previous three months: about 15 ft. from the sidewalk in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station. I was standing facing my wife and two children who were seated in folding chairs.
(5) Why was my public defender accusing me of being incompetent and forcing me to take a psychiatric evaluation? I went to see the psychiatrist Dr. Fink on June 7 and he advised me that I had the right not to take the test, so I said, "Then I don't want to take the test." My public defender, Steve McIlwain, was furious with me because I just wouldn't go along and take the test (my public defender did not even talk to me in person or by phone until July 8, a full month after I had refused to take the test. Prior to that time, the only contact we ever had with him was when he would finally answer my wife's telephone calls to him).

This is America. How could this have happened here? If you have any further questions, please let me know.

Thank you,
Shawn Miller
331 Cook Rd.
Moselle, Ms 39459

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