Police ticket UNL assistant professor in connection with vandalism of Fortenberry campaign signs

Police ticket UNL assistant professor in connection with vandalism of Fortenberry campaign signs
Patricia Wonch-Hill

Lincoln police say they’ve identified the person behind last year’s googly-eyed vandalism of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s campaign signs.

Police ticketed Patricia A. Wonch-Hill, research assistant professor of sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, this week on suspicion of three counts of vandalism involving Fortenberry campaign signs and the door of Sen. Deb Fischer’s campaign office.

“We are fortunate to live in a country that not only allows free speech, but also encourages open dialogue between differing perspectives,” police said in a press release. “LPD is committed to fairly and impartially protecting all citizens’ right to free speech. However, we will also hold accountable those who participate in unlawful behavior.”

Hill, 38, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Washington Post reported that Wonch-Hill was ordered to pay a $500 fine last year after being found guilty of spraying fake blood on the steps of National Rifle Association lobbyist Chris Cox’s home in Alexandria, Virginia.

Lincoln police said they investigated the vandalism incidents in October involving two Fortenberry signs with an estimated replacement cost of $100. Stickers also were placed on the door of Fischer’s campaign office. Both lawmakers are Republicans.

“The LPD forensic identification unit analyzed the signs and stickers left behind and found Wonch-Hill’s fingerprints were at all three locations,” according to the release.

One of Fortenberry’s campaign signs had been altered to give his picture oversized eyes and the “o” in his name was changed into an “a.”

The case went viral online, particularly after another UNL professor accused Fortenberry’s chief of staff Reyn Archer of threatening and intimidating him for “liking” a photo of the vandalized sign on Facebook. That professor released an audio recording of the conversation, although Archer denied he ever intended to intimidate anyone. Rather, he said he was attempting to have a dialogue.

Fischer spokeswoman Brianna Puccini said the senator appreciates the work of the Lincoln Police Department.

UNL spokeswoman Leslie Reed provided The World-Herald with a statement.

“We do not condone vandalism,” Reed said. “However, this is a personal legal matter based on actions of a faculty member on their own time, and they will have to take accountability for their actions based on the outcome of the legal process.”