Bruce Guthrie outside the Frances Anderson Center, a public park owned by the city of Edmonds. Guthrie was arrested by arrested by Edmonds Police during the Edmonds Arts Festival for soliciting signatures on a petition to get Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Washington’s ballot this year. (Photo provided by Bruce Guthrie)

Bruce Guthrie outside the Frances Anderson Center, a public park owned by the city of Edmonds. Guthrie was arrested by arrested by Edmonds Police during the Edmonds Arts Festival for soliciting signatures on a petition to get Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Washington’s ballot this year. (Photo provided by Bruce Guthrie)

Edmonds state House candidate gets trespassing charge dropped

Bruce Guthrie was arrested at the Edmonds Arts Festival last month for soliciting signatures for a Libertarian presidential candidate.

EDMONDS — Edmonds city prosecutors dropped a criminal charge against a state House candidate on Tuesday, weeks after his arrest in a public park during the Edmonds Arts Festival.

On Tuesday, Bruce Guthrie called the news “such a relief.”

Guthrie, 61, was collecting signatures last month at the arts festival held at the city-owned Frances Anderson Center to put Libertarian presidential candidate Chase Oliver on Washington’s ballot. Guthrie is running as a Libertarian for a seat in the 21st Legislative District against 10-year incumbent state Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self, D-Mukilteo.

Over the weekend of the festival, he collected nearly 100 signatures for Oliver.

Festival organizers asked him to leave. Despite being at a public park, Guthrie said the event manager claimed they had the right to ask him to leave, since the Edmonds Arts Festival had rented the space.

Guthrie refused to leave, so he was arrested by the Edmonds Police Department and booked into Snohomish County Jail on a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespass. He stayed there for about five hours until his wife paid the $500 bail.

After his release, he called the arrest and the potential penalties, 90 days in jail or a $1,000 fine, a “travesty of justice.”

Edmonds Prosecuting Attorney Aaron Walls declined to comment on the dropped charge.

“The bottom line is, Bruce was literally jailed for exercising his First Amendment rights,” said Mark Lamb, Guthrie’s attorney.

Guthrie was confident the charge would be dropped, but was worried about the penalties if he was prosecuted.

“Ninety days in jail hanging over my head was not a nice prospect,” he said.

Outside of his political career, Guthrie is a semi-retired substitute teacher and speed skater.

Now that the charge is dropped, Guthrie and his lawyer are planning to file a lawsuit against the city. Guthrie said he will pursue the highest monetary damages possible. If he wins, he’ll use it to pay his lawyer and donate the rest to political causes.

Lamb called the festival arrest was “one of the most clear cut violations of the first amendment” he’d heard of.

“There was really no explanation under case law or under the common understanding of the first amendment in this country for the behavior of the city,” he said.

Guthrie’s case was dismissed without prejudice, Lamb said, so the city could potentially bring it back to court.

Since the arrest, Guthrie said Washington’s petitioning community has been supportive, including longtime anti-tax activist Tim Eyman.

“It’s really gratifying to have people in my corner,” he said, “to not just be a lone person out on my own.”

Jenelle Baumbach: 360-352-8623; jenelle.baumbach@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @jenelleclar.

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