Charlie H. Fisher III, a Buffalo civil rights activist and county contract coordinator for minorities and women, was found innocent of all criminal charges Thursday for what he said will be his continuing anti-racism campaign at a downtown pawnshop.
The decision followed back-to-back non-jury trials on charges Fisher violated two Aug. 4 court orders to stay away from Empire II Pawnbrokers and blocked traffic outside the store at 1570 Main St. on July 12. City Judge Patrick M. Carney found him innocent of criminal contempt and disorderly conduct.
Carney said Fisher and his Community Voice civil rights organization have a right to stage public protests in "a civil and orderly fashion."
But Carney told Rosa and Brooke Stanley, the operators of the three-year-old pawnshop not to hesitate to come back for further proceedings if they experience problems with Fisher and his group.
Fisher, 43, said the group he founded plans further protests at the Stanleys' pawnshop. The Stanleys said they are considering civil action against Fisher and his group.
Fisher said he is fighting what he described as the alleged "injustice" against eight African-Americans who have recently been mistreated in the Stanleys' store. He said, "The protests will continue in an orderly, legal and law-abiding fashion."
Mrs. Stanley, president of the pawnshop corporation, said Fisher has falsely accused her and her husband of being racists, Nazis and fascists because a 23-year-old African-American man was arrested in the pawnshop in July after fighting with her husband.
Stanley, admitting he is a previously convicted felon, told the judge he offered to fight one of the two dozen people who joined Fisher in staging an hours-long protest outside the pawnshop July 12.
Mrs. Stanley testified that Fisher used what she called "obscene" language and threatened to burn the pawnshop and molest her mother during an Aug. 5 protest he and his group staged. That came a day after the Stanleys got orders of protection against him from Carney and City Judge Margaret Anderson.
But Carney said Fisher's rights of free speech and open protest are "very extensive" and said he had to dismiss all the charges. He cited inaccuracies in Buffalo police and City Court complaints about the protests.
Carney pointed out the "great variance of testimony" about just how close Fisher got to the pawnshop on Aug. 5 and what he called "clearly confused" Buffalo police documents describing that incident.