Homeless man wins $150,000 settlement against St. Louis County

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO. – A homeless man competes against St. Louis County and wins big after a federal judge ruled the county’s laws against asking drivers for money to be unconstitutional.

After Robert Fernandez wins a $ 150,000 verdict, he’s back at the I-55/270 / Lindbergh interchange asking drivers for money. However, he has not yet received a financial judgment.

Fernandez’s lawyers say, like the others who work with him in the same field, the goal is to just get through the day. You can do this now without fear of arrest.

“It is legal to beg for money, just as it is legal to ask for money when you are running for office to support your church group or Elks Lodge,” said attorney Hugh Eastwood. “The ordinance and the police aimed at an unpopular speaker for his speech and stood there with a sign that read,” God bless the homeless, everything helps “.”

In his ruling, Judge Stephen Limbaugh noted that Fernandez had been cited 64 times and arrested four times since 2017 for violating St. Louis County laws that required a lawyer license, restricted panhandling of traffic, and banned tramps. Limbaugh said all three laws violate 1st and 14th amendment rights to freedom of expression and due process.

“You can’t arrest someone because they’re poor, but that’s exactly what happened to Robert Fernandez,” said lawyer Bevis Schock.

FOX 2 spoke to Fernandez on Wednesday when he was at the transportation hub. He said this was a matter of freedom of speech, otherwise he had no comment on the matter. Another man who trained here with Fernandez told us he thought the police were just finding another reason to “walk in”.

Limbaugh’s ruling states that while St. Louis County may have road safety laws, those laws cannot make people demanding money as opposed to other forms of roadside expression such as “protesting, petitioning for signatures, campaigning, or evangelizing.”

“How about Old Newsboys Day? How about the firefighters raising money for muscular dystrophy? Do you see them arrested? Do you see them being quoted? “Said shock.

Beth Orwick, the St. Louis County advisor, said her team is reviewing the verdict and will decide what next steps to take. Meanwhile, Fernandez’s lawyers say there should be nothing to decide: pay Fernandez his debt.

“I think he will be able to stabilize his life,” said Schock. “He will be able to find an apartment and not be homeless anymore.”

The ruling also requires the county to pay more than $ 138,000 in fees for Fernandez’s attorneys.

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