ROSWELL, N.M. (AP) – A New Mexico woman convicted of creating a public nuisance by posting an online comment about the possibility of a shooting at her son's school will get a new trial.
Jeanette Garza Alvarez, of Roswell, will have a jury trial in July after appealing a judge's conviction in Municipal Court. Her defense plans to argue that the April 26 conviction violated her free-speech rights, attorney Luke Ragsdale said. Her post on her Facebook page was not a threat but an attempt to gather information, Ragsdale said.
"If you read the post, it just says what's going on," Ragsdale told the Roswell Daily Record (http://bit.ly/1shygtF) in a recent interview. "It's not even close to yelling fire in a theater."
According to Ragsdale, Alvarez intends to file a lawsuit against the city of Roswell in federal court.
In a Jan. 29 post on Facebook, Alvarez shared that her son told her several eighth-graders were planning to take guns to Sierra Middle School and have a shootout, court records show. School officials reported at least 100 phone calls and 160 student absences after the post. The school normally sees 30 absences in a day.
Alvarez received a 30-day deferred sentence and was ordered to pay $29 in court costs. Judge Lou Mallion declined to comment on his decision to convict. However, he recently told the Daily Record newspaper that disrupting the educational process and preventing people from using public facilities met the city ordinance's definition of a public nuisance.
Ragsdale, however, said the absences were due to a school assembly the day before.
Tom Burris, the Roswell Independent School District's superintendent, said Alvarez's post caused pandemonium and warranted a conviction.
"What she did caused a lot of kids to miss school," Burris said. "There was a lot of panic, a lot of concern with parents who did send their kids to school. I think that she was out of line with her comments on Facebook."
Roswell schools have been plagued with bomb threats in recent months, he said.