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A federal judge has ordered an Iowa sheriff to issue a permit to carry a weapon to a political activist, saying the sheriff violated the man’s First Amendment Rights when he denied his permit application in 2007.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett issued his ruling Wednesday against Osceola County Sheriff Douglas Weber following a one-day trial in which the judge said Weber’s own testimony showed he violated Paul Dorr’s constitutional rights.

“The court finds a tsunami, a maelstrom, an avalanche, of direct uncontroverted evidence in Sheriff Weber’s own testimony to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he unquestionably violated the First Amendment Rights of Paul Dorr,” Bennett wrote.

In his ruling, Bennett pointed out that Dorr received permits to carry a weapon from the late 1990s to 2005, when he headed a pro-life ministry group that protested laws that legalized abortion and traveled the country protesting outside abortion clinics.

During that time, Dorr, 34, of Ocheyedan, was convicted of a variety of nonviolent offense, served jail time and received death threats, the ruling states.

He later turned his focus to creating awareness of what he claimed was excessive spending by local governments. He operated his own consulting business and ran a business selling balloons along parade routes to supplement his income, records show.

Because he and his family might be carrying large amounts of cash from that business and his controversial advocacy, Dorr applied for a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which records show was granted.

But then in 2007, after Weber was elected sheriff, he denied Dorr’s application for a permit, listing the reason for his denial as “Concern from Public. Don’t trust him.”

Bennett’s ruling says Weber, who was a deputy before he was elected sheriff, knew about Dorr’s prior activities but it wasn’t until Dorr began working for a local taxpayers association seeking county spending records, including records from Weber’s office, that the sheriff rejected his application.

During trial, Weber testified he had received complaints from some community members about Dorr and his activities, which included handing out flyers and writing letters to editors of local papers.

“The court finds that Sheriff Weber denied (Dorr’s) application … not because of the content of his First Amendment activity but because it was effective and agitated many members of the community,” Bennett wrote.

Source: Michael J. Crumb for Chicago Tribune.

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