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Judge rules in Dorr's favor

SIOUX CITY, Iowa -- The U.S. District Court has ruled in favor of an Ocheyedan man who claimed the Osceola County Sheriff violated his first amendment rights.

Paul Dorr had argued his first amendment rights were violated when Osceola County Sheriff Doug Weber denied his application for a concealed weapon permit in 2007.

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett issued a ruling in favor of Dorr Wednesday, agreeing the sheriff's actions were unconstitutional. The decision marked the first time Bennett has ruled from the bench rather than issuing a written judgment later.

Dorr was issued a concealed weapon permit in 2006, but denied it in 2007 because he had since begun writing letters and handing out brochures for the Osceola County Taxpayers Association, Weber was quoted as saying in a news release issued by Dorr's attorneys.

The case was first filed in October 2008 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. The suit originally alleged a second amendment violation had been committed, but those claims were dismissed before the trial as being without legal merit. The case was then amended to include the first amendment claim.

"(Weber's) point, as I understood it, was that Dorr had become verbally and emotionally abusive, which raised concerns about his having a concealed weapons permit," wrote Sibley attorney Daniel DeKoter in an e-mail to the Daily Globe. "Although Dorr claimed that the sheriff was prejudiced against him because of his political activities with the Osceola County Taxpayers Association, the sheriff actually issued a permit to the president of that group and also to Dorr's wife."

The county's insurance agency had called DeKoter to testify about his personal experiences with Dorr, but his testimony was ruled irrelevant to the issue of Weber's motivation.

"The case raises interesting issues about the line between free speech, and abnormal behavior that raises legitimate concerns for public safety," wrote DeKoter, who was not an attorney of record in the case.

The judge had considered ordering Weber to take a remedial class in the first amendment; he has given attorneys for both sides 10 days to file briefs on whether that would be an acceptable form of damages. Other reliefs awarded could include payment of Dorr's court costs and attorney fees, and possible issuance of the permit in question, said Vince Fahnlander, one of Dorr's attorneys.

A ruling has yet to be given on the remaining two issues in the suit. Dorr's son, Alex, also claimed his first amendment rights were violated when he was denied a concealed weapon permit, and Dorr has said his 14th amendment rights -- those pertaining to due process and equal protection under the law -- were also violated.

The attorney for the county, Doug Phillips, could not be reached for comment.