Persecuted by local law enforcement, and later held at gunpoint by criminals, Gene Duffy was a man undeterred in his faith and in his mission of spreading the word of God. He was a remarkable local figure known and respected by many. Last week he died destitute, but is the richest man I know. I had the pleasure of meeting Gene about five years ago when I represented his wife, Judy in a religious liberty case, and I am much better for it. Over the course of his wife's case, we shared coffee, prayer, fellowship, and broke bread together. Up until his death, Gene was preaching and spreading God's love, despite considerable pain. To know Gene was to love him. He was a compassionate man and loving husband to Judy, his flock and to his maker. I thought I would share some of my memories of Gene and the trials and tribulations he endured in his faith.
CITY OF MOBILE vs. EDWARD EUGENE DUFFY, JR.
On December 13, 1995, street preacher Gene Duffy was doing what he did best, preaching the Gospel, and often times to either an unwilling or hostile audience. Neither Gene nor his message was always met with a warm reception. That day two uniformed officers of the City of Mobile Police Department strolled up to him, Gene was preaching on the sidewalk of Dr. Martin Luther King Avenue near Monday Street in the City of Mobile. The officers had their orders.
RENDERING UNTO CAESAR
Encounters of this type were not new to Gene, as he had previously been ticketed for violating the city's noise ordinance. In fact, it was this prior run in with the law that prompted him to purchase a decibel meter to comply with its mandates. According to appellate court records, the two officers were dispatched by their supervisor to look into a "loud noise ordinance." Mind you, no citizen had called in to complain. This was a complaint founded solely upon the supervising officer's choosing. While there had been previous citizen complaints about the street preacher, there were none this day. Old Gene had it covered today though. "Sir, do you have a permit?" "No, sir officer," Gene replied. "I have a decibel meter to make sure I am in compliance with the law. Here, take a look." The two officers, unfamiliar with the device, ignored him and cited Gene again for violating the city's noise ordinance because he could be heard at a distance of 50 feet. So Gene complied, took the ticket, and appeared in the City of Mobile Municipal Court to plead his case. The judge there found him guilty, but Gene did not give up. He appealed to a Mobile County Circuit Court. He asked the circuit court judge to dismiss the charge because the City sought to criminalize his free speech which was an unconstitutional action. The circuit court judge denied his
motion to dismiss and found him guilty. Undeterred, Gene appealed to a higher authority, and to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, this time with help of local attorney Paul Carbo. On his appeal, Gene won, with all judges on the court, led by Baldwin County Justice Pam Baschab agreeing that "the Mobile anti-noise ordinance to be unconstitutionally overbroad because the standard implemented by the city regulates without reasonable reference to time, place, and manner, and because it regulates constitutionally protected speech more broadly than necessary to achieve the governmental interest in regulating noise."
THE ATTEMPT ON GENE'S LIFE & TWO GUARDIAN ANGELS
Gene was preaching in the Semmes Walmart parking lot one hot August afternoon in 2012, when a topless man, later identified as 26 year-old Jessie Allen Reid, approached Gene and put a gun to his head and said, "I will kill you" if Gene didn't stop preaching. An older female who was with Reid, later identified as 53 year-old Sandra Jarman, then put a knife to Gene's throat growling, "if he don't do you, I will." Two Good Samaritans, 36 year-old Kenneth Cushman and 22 year-old Steven Stewart ran over to help. Reid then asked the Good Samaritans if they "came to save the day."
Jarman then stabbed both Good Samaritans 4-5 times each according to the Fox10 News report. While stabbing them she said, "You like that?" and "Who's bad now?" Reid and Jarman fled the scene but were captured shortly after in the vicinity. Both were charged with attempted murder. Reid pled to a reduced charge of Assault, 1st Degree and was sentenced to a 15 year term in prison. He was on probation for possession of methamphetamines at the time of this assault. Jarman pled to an amended charge of Assault, 1st Degree and was sentenced to 20 years split to serve 5 years in prison. As of this blog post, Jarman is still in prison. Reid was later released and records show he was issued a traffic citation on October 10, 2018. He failed to appear and currently has an outstanding active warrant of arrest. At the time of sentencing, Mobile County Circuit Judge Rick Stout said, "This may be the most bizarre case I have seen or heard of since I have been on the bench."
GUARDIAN ANGEL KENNETH CUSHMAN
Kenneth Cushman lies in a hospital room at USA Medical Center on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, surrounded by his fiancee, Amy Varner, left, and cousins Tasha Wood and Derek Hicks. The 36-year-old Semmes resident was stabbed three times as he tried to aid a preacher who had been assaulted by two people in the Walmart parking lot at Schillinger Road and Moffett Road on Aug. 8. (Michael Dumas/Press-Register)
When asked about his attackers, Gene said “I have absolute perfect forgiveness for them whether they ask for it or not. My will for them is to see them come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.” As for Gene, he kept on preaching, literally up to his final dying days.
Christian preacher Gene Duffy is pictured on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. Duffy, 67, was assaulted by a man and a woman in the Walmart parking lot at Schillinger Road and Moffett Road on Aug. 8. When two men, Kenneth Cushman and Steven Stuart, came to his aid, they were stabbed by the woman. (Michael Dumas/Press-Register)
An Honorable burial for a great man Gene Duffy Sr.
Gene's family is in need of financial help to give him a proper service and burial. Family and friends have set up a GoFundMe Page to help out. They posted this remembrance:
The Lord planted Gene Duffy in Mobile, AL in 1990 as a missionary called from Pennsylvania to the streets of the United States. He faithfully fulfilled God's plan and purpose in the Kingdom of God for which he was called. Gene was always lifting up others and never putting them down. Gene ministered loyally in Mobile for 29 years pouring the depths of his heart into the lives of others continually. On May 2nd at 2:46 a. m. our beloved missionary, warrior and mighty man of valour stepped out of time into eternity which was the moment he lived for, to meet Jesus face to face. Gene Duffy will lay to rest in Mobile, AL until the end of time.
As Gene ministered 7 days a week he and his wife, Judith lived in faith through the donations and giving of others. At this time, his wife is in need of your financial support to cover final expenses and her beloved's burial.
Judith is most grateful for your comfort, compassion , and generosity in contributing to her necessity.
Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
If you are interested in helping with Gene's funeral expenses, a GoFundMe page has been set up for him: GOFUNDME LINK
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Matt Green represents persons in a wide variety of criminal and constitutional matters. He represents personal injury victims as well. Matt served as a municipal court traffic court judge in the City of Mobile and the City of Saraland for nearly a decade. Before that Matt prosecuted major felonies, traffic homicides, and violent crimes in the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office. He teaches trial advocacy to Mobile Police Cadets and speaks to the Mobile County Court Referral Victim Impact Panel. Matt also advocates for free speech, economic liberty, and due process. He may be reached at 251.434.8500 or by e-mail at email@example.com or by Twitter @greenlawoffice
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