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Pennsylvania woman in legal doo-doo for lav profanities

What a pisser

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While swearing at work is apparently good for you, swearing in your bathroom isn't. Pennsylvania housewife Dawn Herb is preparing to fight charges of disorderly conduct brought against her after she swore at her unruly loo, and shortly afterwards a law enforcement officer.

Herb, a resident of West Scranton*, was tackling her overflowing toilet last Thursday evening when she lost patience and let rip with some choice expletives. This bog-based ballyhoo upset her neighbour, off-duty police officer Patrick Gilman, who called his chums on the force when she declined to stem the flow of rude words, some of which were directed at himself.

According to the Scranton Times-Tribune, Herb explains: "The toilet was overflowing and leaking down into the kitchen and I was yelling [for my daughter] to get the mop... A guy is yelling, 'Shut the fuck up', and I yelled back, 'Mind your own business'."

(Unimpeachable moral consistency on Gilman's part, then, unless Herb is such a compulsive pottygob that she can't help but project her filth onto others when relating events.)

The upshot of the subsequent police visit was that Herb was charged with disorderly conduct, with the citation accusing her of "intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm". Herb has no criminal record, and it is unclear whether or not she even has a working toilet after all that palaver.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is weighing in with legal help, and is expected to act as representative for Herb as her case goes to court today. She plans to enter a not guilty plea, but faces up to 90 days' imprisonment or a $300 fine if convicted.

ACLU attorney Mary Catherine Roper said: "This is an extreme example of the government trying to intrude into a place they have no business being, your bathroom and your home. You can prosecute somebody for bad language in Iran, this isn't Iran."

Well, quite. Scranton's director of public safety Ray Hayes disagreed, saying that these things are not always "as cut and dry as they originally appear. Freedom of speech is not an unfettered right". ®

Bognote Bootnote

*Scranton is, of course, the setting for the US version of The Office, and thus America's Slough. Nice.

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