The dozens of people charged with disorderly conduct related to the alleged buying and selling of Masters Tournament tickets last month will have to go to court to resolve their cases, a city solicitor said Tuesday.
Harry B. James, solicitor for Richmond County Magistrate Court, said he no longer thinks the majority of these cases should be dismissed.
“I reviewed all of the files and there were different factual bases to about a third of them,” James said. “I’m going to have each of them come to court and try each separately.”
Last week, after reviewing about a quarter of the more than 30 cases, James said that he was inclined to dismiss them all.
On Tuesday, James said although some cases appeared to be “ripe for dismissal,” on the whole he felt they were too dissimilar to dismiss as a group, so it would be unwise to dismiss any of them at this point.
James, however, has already declined to prosecute one case, which was one of two cases dismissed by Chief Magistrate Judge William Jennings III last week.
When questioned about that case, James said he couldn’t recall why he had filed a motion of nolle prosequi – meaning he chose not to pursue charges against Jasper B. Sojourner, of Port St. Lucie, Fla.
The reasons James cited in his motion to drop charges against Sojourner were “judicial economy” and “violate no laws,” according to court documents.
“I don’t remember the exact facts of that case,” said James when asked about the motion he filed on Thursday.
Sojourner, 72, was one of three people who wrote letters to city officials protesting their arrests. Sojourner said he was unaware that he was breaking a law when he sold a Masters practice round ticket to Mark Dickson, a 21-year-old student from Scotland enrolled at University of South Carolina Aiken.
“I was not selling above the price of the ticket, just trying to let a nice young man enjoy the Masters,” Sojourner wrote in his April 10 letter.
Both Sojourner and Dickson were arrested April 3 by sheriff’s undercover narcotics officers and released from jail on $500 bond.
James couldn’t explain why he was still pursuing the disorderly conduct charge against Dickson, when the other man in the transaction was going free.
Dickson, a member of the USC Aiken golf team, said Tuesday it didn’t seem he was being treated fairly.
“We were both in the same boat together,” he said. “Neither of us knew we were doing anything wrong.”
His father, Dr. Ian Dickson of Edinburgh, Scotland, said James decision to go forward with charges is shocking considering the conversation he had with him last week.
“He told me that he was virtually certain that all of the people who were arrested were to have the charges dropped,” Ian Dickson wrote in an e-mail. “He said that Mark should expect a letter this week to that effect.”
Mark Dickson said he expects to see James in court on May 8 to fight the charge.
There was one other case dismissed Thursday. That was against Dave Heisterkamp, a church pastor from Polk City, Iowa, who also wrote a letter of complaint about his April 4 arrest on Berckmans Road.
Heisterkamp’s charge was dismissed on request of Sheriff Ronnie Strength, who called the Iowa man after he received a letter from him in mid-April.
Heisterkamp admitted he was seeking tickets outside the gates of Augusta National Golf Club, which Strength said was a valid reason for the arrest.
But after discussing the situation with Heisterkamp, Strength said, “I was convinced he had no idea he was violating any law.”
“That’s why I asked the court to dismiss the charges,” said Strength, who added he was not going to intervene in any other cases.
Both Heisterkamp and Sojourner can expect the $500 they posted for bond to be refunded, court officials said. Those convicted of disorderly conduct, however, shouldn’t expect the charge to show up on a criminal background check, since it is based on a city ordinance, officials said.
Two other men, who were arrested aand charged with violating the state scalping law have pleaded guilty and paid fines, according to court records.
James Russ, 57, was arrested April 2 on charges of criminal trespass and unlawful sale of athletic tickets after deputies caught him scalping tickets on the grounds of Augusta National. Russ pleaded guilty to both charges on April 10 and was sentenced to 12 months probation and fines totaling $3,850. Russ had previously been banned from the course and had arrests from Masters weeks in 2008 and 2009.
An Ohio man, Edward Testa, was arrested April 3 and charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful sale of athletic tickets after deputies caught him buying practice round tickets outside the National’s gates. Testa pleaded guilty to the disorderly conduct charge and was sentenced to 60 days probation and $675 in fines. Solicitor General Charles Evans said his prosecutors felt it was best to drop the scalping charge since Testa wasn’t selling tickets, but trying to purchase them for others.
“The state statute requires that there is a sale,” Evans said.
As for the others with outstanding cases, James said they will have to show up in Magistrate Court next week if they intend to fight the charges. He said it didn’t matter that some lived as far away as Canada and California.
“If they don’t show up the judge can issue a bench warrant or they can forfeit their bond,” he said.