The Ledger reports…
“Moments after his lawyer secured an extension in his criminal case in court Tuesday, Florida pastor Terry Jones told reporters outside the courtroom he has every intention of returning to Polk County this September to burn Qurans, the Muslim holy book, in remembrance of Americans who died in terrorist attacks.
“We plan to return to Polk County for our next Sept. 11 event to complete what we started,” said Jones, the controversial Bradenton minister whose protests against Muslims have attracted international attention.
Jones, 62, was arrested in Mulberry last Sept. 11 on his way to burn 2,998 Qurans at a nearby county-owned park. The date marked the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, and Jones planned to burn one holy book for each American victim of those attacks.
He’s pleaded not guilty to charges of the unlawful conveyance of fuel for pulling a cooker on a trailer filled with kerosene-soaked Qurans, and for openly carrying a firearm. Both charges are felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison.
Lawyers for the state and Jones told Circuit Judge Roger Alcott on Tuesday they’re continuing to discuss a plea agreement in the case. The case will be back in court for a pretrial hearing April 18.
Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Ministries in Manatee County, said Tuesday he remains steadfast in his belief that the Polk County Sheriff’s Office targeted him on Sept. 11, when he was arrested within a few miles of the park. He maintains his First Amendment right to free speech was violated, and he said Tuesday he’s still considering legal action against the Sheriff’s Office.
But he said fighting the criminal allegations against him would take time and money, he’s more interested in pursuing his crusade against Islam.
We are looking to settle the situation in whatever way is to our best advantage,” he said. “Fighting it would take a lot more time, it takes more finances,” he said. “Everything we are doing is, of course, put on hold the longer we have to fight.”
As long as the deal is a good one, he said, it’s to his advantage to go ahead and take that so he can move on with his plans.
Jones said he has no fear of returning to Polk County in September because he now knows he will be targeted, and he knows to stay within the letter of the law.
“We will be doing everything legally,” he said, “but we plan to continue to exercise our First Amendment rights.”
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Tuesday that Jones will have nothing to worry about if returns to this county and obeys the law.
“But if he comes to Polk County and violates the law,” he said, “then I have a place for him at the Polk County Jail.”