West Windsor, New Jersey — Two Christian evangelists that were arrested in New Jersey last June after preaching the Gospel at a local train station are still facing jail time as their ongoing trial has been continued in municipal court.
Robert Parker and Don Karns state that they have been preaching at the Princeton Junction train station in West Windsor for several years, which is a part of the New Jersey Transit system, a provider of public transportation. As previously reported, last summer, after they had finished preaching and witnessing to those waiting for trains, and were leaving, the men were approached by Sergeant Kathleen Shanahan and Officer Sandy Crowe.
Parker and Karns said that Shanahan, who demanded identification, was “extremely hostile,” and claimed that the evangelists had violated the law for speaking at the train station without a permit. The evangelists attempted to record the encounter with their cell phones, but were ordered to turn them off.
“[Sergeant Shanahan] started repeatedly saying, ‘Put the phone down; put the phone down,’” Karns recounted. “You guys are big guys, and I’m just a little officer. You know how scary it is when you have a camera in your hand. How do I know you’re not terrorists? I have no way of knowing that’s not a bomb.”
“They’re being trained that a camera is a weapon,” Parker advised with concern. “So now, they’re going to say that your phone is a weapon and you can’t use it anymore. That is the new tactic.”
While Parker provided identification to the officers, Karns asserted his right to privacy. The men were then taken into custody and transported to be booked and charged. After spending three hours in jail, they were leveled with three offenses: defiant trespass, and two counts of obstruction for recording with a cell phone and declining to provide identification.
This week, Parker and Karns stood trial in municipal court before Judge Kenneth W. Lozier as part of a continuation that has been ongoing for several months. Parker told Christian News Network that much of the testimony of the police officers was false and was made to portray them as possible terrorists.
“[Shanahan said] we were overdressed on a hot day, which she said was 90 degrees, which is a lie,” he stated. “We were there early in the morning.”
“She said we had bulging pockets, and that she was very intimidated,” Parker continued. “She said Don wasn’t filming the right way, and the way he was holding [his phone] looked like he was grabbing his fist like he was going to do something.”
He noted that a police officer that had approached him in 2009 at the train station was also summoned by the prosecution to testify. The officer was asked on the stand if he had told Parker never to return without a permit. He replied in the affirmative. Parker explained that at this point, his attorney asked to show a video of what happened that day.
“This is where the police officer started getting nervous,” Parker said. “The prosecution jumped up and tried to stop it.”
“The video just breaks it all down,” he continued. “So, he got caught lying on the stand.”
Later during the trial, the attorney for the evangelists requested a complete dismissal of the charges, but Judge Lozier only threw out one charge, which pertained to obstruction for recording with a cell phone.
“[The judge] wouldn’t dismiss the defiant trespass charge,” Parker said. “I think he was seeing through some of the lies, but I was disappointed that he didn’t dismiss it all.”
Attorneys for Parker and Karns now have 30 days to file written argument with the court and to schedule a date for closing statements.
The men still face possible fines and jail time if they are found guilty of the remaining obstruction and trespassing charges.