Long Arm of the Law Stops at “The Finger”

Giving opposing fans 'the finger' at Qualcomm Stadium or Petco Park may be rude and risky.

But it's not against the law.

A Kansas City Chiefs fan went through a legal nightmare to prove that point.

On Monday, 33-year-old Jason Ensign of San Diego was acquitted on battery charges stemming from a scuffle with stadium security guards after he 'flipped off' Chargers fans while leaving early from a November, 2009 game that his favorite team, the visiting Chiefs, was losing badly.

Ensign's lawyer says language in the judge's ruling sends authorities a message about the First Amendment.

"They're going to have to rethink how they handle these private security guards at Padres games, at Qualcomm Stadium, at any sporting event," attorney Mary Frances Prevost said in an interview wednesday. "Because they can't evict someone for exercising their free speech rights ...

"All the attorneys that would be looking at these policies, they know this. They need to made the stadium security guards understand it. Or else they're going to get a lot of lawsuits."

While fan conduct policies in effect at Qualcomm Stadium and throughout the NFL prohibit obscene language or gestures, the city's municipal code makes no reference to that.

The trial judge, Gale Kaneshiro, ruled that Jason Ensign was invoking his free speech right with his middle-finger salute to Chargers fans, and had a right to defend himself from the private security officers who tackled him.

Most sports fans who were asked for their reaction Wednesday said, in essence, 'all well and good' -- but not a Phi Beta Kappa move on Ensign's part.

"Ultimately, you may end up in a hospital as opposed to a jail, but it was probably still a bad idea," said East Village resident Luis Saunders. "Somewhere in there, at a sporting event, we've got to allow guys to be guys. And you know, maybe they're going to suffer the consequences of a bad decision."

Said Gaslamp Quarter resident Sara Krencicki: "You could equate it to driving and you flip somebody the bird. They could have a gun in their car."

So far, no word from the Chargers, their security firm or the N-F-L on how they'll respond to the ruling.

The city attorney's office isn't planning to appeal it.

One of the security guards is suing Ensign for assault and battery.

Ensign will now file a cross-complaint against him.

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