WEST LONG BRANCH - A judge has dismissed charges against a Monmouth County man who faced a fine for flying flags supporting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Joseph Hornick was ticketed in March for violating a West Long Branch ordinance that restricts the display of political signs until 30 days before an election. New Jersey's primary is June 7.
The town considered the "Trump-Make America Great Again" flags the equivalent of a political sign and issued Hornick a citation. Hornick also faced fines.
Hornick said that his First Amendment rights were being violated, so he took the case to court instead of paying a fine.
“You take my freedom away, I’d rather sit in jail,” Hornick says.
The state's American Civil Liberties Union joined the dispute, saying people have the right to express their political beliefs every day.
"This is absolutely a civil rights case. It’s about the First Amendment and the right to express political viewpoints,” says ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeanne Locicero. “Mr. Hornick should be applauded for standing up for his First Amendment rights."
The municipal judge agreed and the hearing lasted less than 30 seconds. The judge said the town’s ordinance against political signs is somewhat vague whether it applies to a flag.
News 12 New Jersey is told that West Long Branch may now be reconsidering the ordinance and may change it. The ordinance is meant to prevent lawn clutter.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.