Sheriff Troy Nehls made national news recently after he was blasted for using his Facebook page to find the identity of a Fort Bend County resident who plastered an obscenity against President Donald Trump and anyone who voted for him on the back of the family truck.
That post resulted in publicly identifying Karen Cook Fonseca, which led to her arrest on an outstanding felony warrant for fraud. It has Fonseca’s supporters crying foul and claiming this was just a publicity stunt by the sheriff to get national attention and help for his potential bid for Congress.
It all started Nov. 15 when Nehls said someone sent him a picture of the back window of the truck where the obscene message was placed and he posted it on his Facebook page asking the owner to come forward for a talk.
“The picture didn’t show the license plate. So I put it out on my Facebook and said we’d like to identify and talk to her about people who are offended,” Nehls said. “Would you consider modifying it and have a conversation. We reached out to the district attorney’s office to the individual who oversees
all traffic matters. They said they would consider a disorderly conduct charge. Then the media said I threatened her with arrest and I’m harassing her.”
He said he regularly uses social media with Crime Stoppers to get the public’s help in identifying someone and this was no different.
The sheriff said he supports Trump, but denied making threats.
“I never threatened her,” he said.
Once Fonseca was identified as the vehicle owner, authorities also learned she had a felony warrant for an alleged fraud case and arrested her. When the arrest became public, he said his office was flooded with false complaints that he targeted her, overstepped his authority and violated her rights to free speech by arresting her for the message on the truck.
“We didn’t arrest her for the message. But if you have a felony warrant, we are coming to get you,” he said.
Fonseca’s alleged offense occurred in 2014. The indictment came down June of this year. The Star asked the sheriff if the timing seemed suspicious.
“That’s a district attorney question. Did it take two years to get to a grand jury? I don’t know about that. We serve felony warrants,” said Nehls.
He added that he still believes Fonseca’s obscene message “met the description of disorderly conduct. I felt those were fighting words. I felt it was breaching the peace because now you are attacking an individual and that crosses the line when you say ‘F’ you too for voting for him,” Nehls said.
The incident unleashed a barrage of vitriol against him, he said.
“I had every type of person attacking me from the far left. I noticed that 2 million of the far left were sending me the most vile, hateful, threatening emails and Twitter posts,” Nehls said.
A petition on Change.Org created by a Florida man calling for the sheriff’s resignation collected more than 1,300 of the 1,500 signatures they wanted. Stories about the matter appeared in the Washington Post, and an editorial in the Dallas Evening News suggested the sheriff walk away.
Now Fonseca has included the similar obscene message to Nehls on her truck.
According to her Facebook page, she has also created an Etsy sales site where she is selling the shirts and hats with the message about Trump and his voters.
She has not responded to a request from the Star for an interview. But she has posted on her Facebook page that people ask her daily to take a picture with the truck. She has multiple pictures of people she said are strangers smiling while standing with her truck and her posts have received hundreds of likes.
“Let me tell you this … this world can be one and made better. I’m a living testament to this a week ago I was just a mother to 12 kids and happily married wife to my husband Mike Fonseca an average American like everyone else … (Don’t get me wrong I’m still that person that will never change) but to everyone else I’m a voice now and many of all races have come forward helped me create pages spread the word, told me their stories and I couldn’t be happier to know as we all come together this one small step means a lot considering we have a Dotard in the White House trying to separate families … degrade women as objects, point out the wrong in everyone but his self. He needs a reality check of his own,” she stated in a recent post.
“I am so happy to see the widespread diversification … And responses and people coming together. Every small step becomes one step closer … Never forget we were all born as one,” Fonseca wrote.
The sheriff has also received much support on his Facebook page from those who decried the obscene words visible to anyone on the street. The incident was just one more example, said the sheriff, of a major problem in the country.
“What I’ve learned over the stickers is that we as Americans can’t even have a meaningful conversation in America about anything that may be of differing opinions. I understand protected speech and freedom of speech. But it’s just getting worse. What kind of message are we sending our children? How about some common decency? There is a moral decay in this country,” Nehls said.
The sheriff said he never spoke with Fonseca but called the incident, “her 15 minutes of shame.”
Fonseca wrote that the truck has become a rallying cry for supporters of her message to resist Trump. She posted an on-air interview with 90.1-FM, featuring Fonseca and her attorney, Brian Middleton. He advised his client to not comment on the felony fraud warrant case which resulted from an incident with someone Fonseca once lived with.
“The focus has been on the content of the decal. The issue everybody should be concerned about is that the sheriff is doing this for a public relations stunt. An elected sheriff should be aware of the First Amendment right. If you deny the First Amendment, that opens the door for the denial of other rights,” said Middleton.