not guilty

Spitting Tobacco Juice At Westboro’s Shirley Phelps-Roper Is Not A Crime: Jury

It took a jury less than an hour to acquit Billy Spade, a West Virginia man, of battery charges stemming from his spitting tobacco juice on the Westboro Baptist Church’s Shirley Phelps-Roper, daughter of Fred. Spade told the court that at a Westboro protest last April in downtown Charleston, after Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch Mine exploded and killed 29 miners, their sign that read “Thank God for dead coal miners” pissed him off (as the son of a dead coal miner), but it was the “Thank God for dead Marines” that forced his hand. Or rather, he mouth. (A very close Marine friend died in Afghanistan.) So he gathered his tobacco-tinged saliva in his mouth and sent it flying at the sign Shirley was holding. A cop witnessed the incident and arrested him, claiming he saw Spade spit on Shirley’s chest; she was holding her sign above her head. That the incident even ended with a jury trial was surprising, but Charleston City Attorney Paul Ellis insists the uncharacteristic and drastic action was not because Westboro threatened to sue if they didn’t take Spade to court.