ORANGE CITY—A Sioux County magistrate decided not to throw the book at a 63-year-old Ocheyedan man who burned LGBTQ-themed library books last year in Orange City.
On Tuesday morning, Aug. 6, in Orange City, Magistrate Lisa Mazurek found Paul Robert Dorr guilty of one count of fifth-degree criminal mischief, which is a simple misdemeanor.
Dorr originally requested a jury trial, but he waived his right to have the case decided by a jury, so a bench trial was held instead at the Sioux County Courthouse.
Mazurek gave Dorr the following sentence in Sioux County Magistrate Court: a $65 fine, a 35 percent surcharge of $22.75 and $60 in court costs.
Dorr paid the total amount of his sentencing — $147.75 — following the trial, which lasted just over an hour and 10 minutes.
Fifth-degree criminal mischief is punishable by a fine of at least $65 up to $625. A 30-day jail sentence also may be ordered in lieu of a fine or in addition to a fine.
Sioux County attorney Tom Kunstle prosecuted the case on behalf of the state of Iowa, while Dorr represented himself.
Kunstle requested that Mazurek order Dorr to pay a maximum fine of $625 “due to the brazen nature of this case,” Kunstle said during the trial.
That sentence also would have included a 35 percent surcharge of $218.75 and $60 in court costs.
However, Kunstle did not request that Dorr serve any sort of jail sentence because “that, in my mind, is inappropriate,” Kunstle said.
“That is what this case is about — Mr. Dorr intentionally destroying somebody else’s property,” Kunstle said. “He claims that the freedom of religion or the freedom of speech entitles him to do this and that is not a license to intentionally destroy somebody else’s property.”
Mazurek noted Dorr does not have much of a criminal record in Iowa other than some speeding tickets.
“The court understands what the state is saying, but frankly I disagree,” she said. “I don’t see any reason to sentence this case any differently than any other first-offense criminal mischief that has appeared in front of this court.”
Mazurek said she has never ordered someone to pay the maximum fine for a first-offense criminal mischief charge.
“I’m not going to start with Mr. Dorr,” she said.
During the case, Dorr filed a motion to dismiss, alleging selective prosecution; a notice of defense of necessity; a motion to continue the trial; a motion to suppress evidence; a renewed motion to dismiss; a motion for change of venue; and two motions to have Mazurek recuse herself. The court denied all of Dorr’s motions.
After the trial concluded, Dorr handed out a written statement to gathered members of the media and later sent out the same press release via e-mail to numerous news outlets.
“Over the past several weeks, I’ve been limited by honorable Magistrate Lisa Mazurek of Cherokee, Iowa, in what I can offer to a jury in defense of my actions last October,” Dorr said. “This was one of the reasons I requested she recuse herself and for a change of venue. She denied both.
“This is also why I asked her to waive my right of a jury trial and face a bench trial,” he said. “With her limitations on my defense, I knew that the outcome was a foregone conclusion, so I chose to remain silent.”
On Saturday, Oct. 6, Dorr checked out four LGBTQ-themed books from the Orange City Public Library: “Two Boys Kissing,” “This Day in June,” “Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress” and “Families, Families, Families.”
Dorr, the director of the Ocheyedan-based Rescue The Perishing religious group, burned the library books on Friday, Oct. 19, during a planned protest and published his actions, which he had filmed and recorded, in a Facebook Live video.
The burning of the library books — which were damaged beyond use — took place during the three-day OC Pride festival in Orange City. Dorr can be seen throwing the books into a burning barrel during the roughly 30-minute-long video.
“You won’t be peddling this one anymore,” Dorr said to the Orange City Public Library in the video — a portion of which was shown during the trial — as he tossed one of the books into the burning barrel. “You should all be ashamed of yourselves and repent.”
After its books were burned, the Orange City Public Library, which previously had faced opposition from community members for putting LGBTQ-themed books on the shelves for checkout, received thousands of dollars in cash contributions and hundreds of donated books from people and organizations across the United States.
The Orange City Police Department charged Dorr with fifth-degree criminal mischief, alleging that he intentionally destroyed someone else’s property. Dorr pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial.
“My intent was never criminal,” Dorr said. “My motive was to honor the Triune God in whom my faith resides and to protect the children of Orange City from being seduced into a life of sin and misery. I did it in such a way so as to exercise my freedom of speech and the freedom of my biblical faith.”