A former mayor of Nisswa, Minn., will stand trial for disorderly conduct stemming from a profane argument with police, a judge has ruled.
Fred Heidmann was serving as mayor last year when he angrily intervened in a traffic stop, cursing at police who had pulled over a car full of young people on busy Hwy. 371, a major route through the Brainerd lakes area.
In Heidmann's view, the local police should have been spending their time patrolling neighborhoods rather than making traffic stops on a state highway.
And he told them so. Repeatedly. In very colorful language.
After the initial confrontation, Heidmann left the scene, but returned minutes later and began talking to the young people in the car that had been pulled over. Police told Heidmann several times to stand back, and another argument began. Finally, officers grabbed him, pinned his arms behind his back, handcuffed him and put him in the back of a police car. He was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor.
Heidmann sought to have the charge dismissed, arguing that his First Amendment right to free speech was violated by the arrest.
In a police report, Heidmann was described as "yelling," a charge he denies. Several videos of the event appear to show Heidmann speaking emphatically but not yelling.
In her decision issued Wednesday, Crow Wing District Judge Kristine DeMay noted that Heidmann had cursed police officers repeatedly, calling them "as bad as the ... dinks in Minneapolis."
Videos show that Heidmann stood close to the officers at times and gestured with his hands, sometimes coming near their faces. And that, according to prosecutors, was enough to tip his behavior over the line.
DeMay noted that, while police are expected to endure behavior that a typical citizen might not tolerate, "a person may be charged with disorderly conduct where the officers are subjected to indignities that go far beyond what any other citizen might reasonably be expected to endure."
DeMay said the issue of whether Heidmann's conduct was "offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous or noisy" is a factual question that should be decided by a jury.
Heidmann said he believed police were retaliating against him because of past disagreements he's had with Craig Taylor, the Nisswa police chief.
Heidmann, who owns an equipment-rental business, was defeated for re-election in November. The case against him will now be set for pretrial proceedings.
John Reinan • 612-673-7402