Stephen Le Brocq, an attorney representing Joshua Santa Claus protestor Aaron James Urbanski, recently filed a motion to have the criminal trespass charge against his client dismissed. Le Brocq cites First Amendment freedom of speech and religious rights, among other arguments, in his brief and denies that Urbanski was trespassing when he was arrested.
“[Urbanski] is illegally restrained in liberty when he was arrested on Dec. 8, 2018, without a warrant and without probable cause by Officer Robert Blunck of the city of Cleburne Police Department,” according to the brief.
The Johnson County Attorney’s Office on Dec. 19 charged Urbanski with criminal trespass, a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a jail term not to exceed 180 days and a fine not to exceed $2,000.
Cleburne police arrested Urbanski, 31, on Dec. 8 at St. Mark United Methodist Church. The Pancake Breakfast With Santa fundraiser event held there that day was sponsored by the Cleburne Kiwanis Club, not the church.
A hearing on Urbanski’s motion is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Johnson County Court at Law No. 1.
Cleburne police responded to reports of a disturbance about 10 a.m. that day. The Cleburne Kiwanis Club were hosting their annual pancake breakfast event in conjunction with the Camp Fire Tesuya’s annual Santa House when Urbanski and two others arrived, according to reports.
“Initially they were across the street on [Cleburne ISD] property protesting with a bullhorn and yelling, ‘Santa’s not real,’” Kiwanis President Drew Stallings said. “Then they came onto church property and we went over to talk to them and told them they were scaring people and asked them to go back on the other property. They refused to move. We told them we would call the police if they didn’t and they said, ‘Go ahead and call.’
“The police came and, at that point, they were confronting a woman who was either getting her kids out of the car or back into the car. Anyway, they apparently wouldn’t cooperate with police and one of them was arrested.”
Johnson County Justice of the Peace Judge Jeff Monk set Urbanski’s bond at $1.500 and he remains free on bond.
Urbanski’s brief disputes those claims.
Urbanski describes himself as a “born-again Christian who deeply believes every word of the Bible” and believes that lying is a sin.
“Ergo, because Santa does not exist, it is a lie/sin to lead children to believe that Santa is real or to do things in Santa’s name because acts of Christian charity should be done in Christ’s name and not that of a false idol,” according to Urbanski’s motion.
Urbanski and two other men went to St. Mark that day for the sole purpose of exercising their First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution, according to the motion.
One of the other men brought a bullhorn and used it to explain that Santa is not real, according to the motion, but at no time did [Urbanski] use the bullhorn.
Urbanski said he never stepped on church property that day but rather remained on the street and/or curb facing the church.
Following a conversation with the protestor with the bullhorn, Blunck approached Urbanski and asked for his ID.
“After some back and forth regarding [Urbanski’s] belief he was not doing anything wrong, Blunck told him to provide him his ID or he was going to arrest him,” according to the motion. “[Urbanski] gave him his ID. After being given an unlawful order, [Urbanski] began saying louder, ‘This is spiritual warfare. This is a lukewarm congregation right here.’ At which point Blunck told [Urbanski], ‘Hey, shut up.’ [Urbanski] then begins saying, ‘Jesus Christ is coming back with a vengeance. [Urbanski] was then interrupted by Blunck and told that Blunck is about to throw him in jail for a noise ordinance violation. [Urbanski] began stating, ‘So you’re going to arrest me for using my freedom of speech?’”
Blunck then arrested Urbanski for a noise violation, according to the motion.
Body camera footage captures Blunck telling Urbanski that just because you have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea, according to the motion. Blunck, according to the motion, tells Urbanski, ‘You were offending all those people that were trying to go in and worship their God the way that they want to.’”
“After Blunck tells [Urbanski] this a call on the radio comes in and the supervising officer tells Blunck that [Urbanski] will be charged with criminal trespassing,” according to the motion.
Le Brocq, in the motion, argues that Criminal Trespass Section 30.05 of the Texas Penal Code is unconstitutional because it is vague, overly broad and ambiguous and can be “arbitrarily used by law enforcement to chill, prevent and stifle free speech” and freedom of worship.
In the wake of Urbanski’s arrest, Cleburne officials, fearful that he and his fellow protestors might make a return appearance, beefed up security to ensure the safety of Santa and Mrs. Claus during Cleburne’s Dec. 9 Christmas Parade. The parade went off without incident.
Urbanski and two others also protested Santa during the Nov. 24 Joshua Christmas Parade & Holiday Shopping Event. They left church property when asked to do so at that event, however, and were not arrested.
Joshua Area Chamber of Commerce President Miranda Szurgot confirmed that Urbanski and two other men showed up during the Christmas parade.
“He spoke with vendors and Santa,” Szurgot said. “He came back with a megaphone shouting at the children that Santa is not real and telling parents they were going to hell for telling them about Santa.”
Former Mayor Merle Breitenstein filled in for Santa during the event with Joshua resident Misty Young filling in for Mrs. Claus.
“We were at the church before the parade so the children could come by and say hi to Santa and Mrs. Claus and there was Christmas shopping with vendors and other activities,” Young said. “I was walking toward the door to say hi to some of the children walking in when three men wearing shirts that said Jesus on them came in. I just thought they were part of the church.”
Instead they approached Breitenstein.
“They asked me if I’m a Christian and I said I am and asked if they are,” Breitenstein said. “Then they asked how Jesus would feel if he saw me in my Santa Claus suit and I told them I know the true meaning of Christmas and that Santa is just a fun thing for the kids. By that time kids were starting to come in and I told them, ‘This conversation is over and you all need to leave.’
“They kept slapping their Bibles in my face but they left eventually and stayed outside and protested in the street.
“I understand that Christmas is about Jesus Christ and not Santa, but to be telling little kids that, I don’t like that. They’d been here the year before too. They just filmed us then but didn’t ask us anything and were eventually run off the property.”