More than four months after dozens of people were arrested in a sheriff’s crackdown on ticket exchanges outside the Masters Tournament, a couple of them are still waiting for their day in court.
Bryan Epps, of Florence, S.C., was one of about 40 people hauled to jail during the first week of April on charges related to the buying and selling of practice round tickets outside the gates of Augusta National Golf Club.
Although two people were charged with violating the state scalping law, most were like Epps – charged with disorderly conduct and held at the jail until they were able to post $500 bonds.
Epps said he is still waiting for a bench trial in Magistrate Court because he wants the charge dropped and his bond money returned.
“I am riding this all the way to the end,” he said.
Of the 38 people charged with disorderly conduct, 20 chose not to go to court to contest the charges and forfeited their bond money in lieu of a fine. Most of those people were from outside Georgia, some from as far way as California and Canada. Two people who wrote letters of complaint, one from Florida and one from Iowa, had their cases dismissed without attending court.
One other Augusta man, Austin Smith, had his case transferred to State Court and is still awaiting trial. Solicitor General Charles Evans said that he hasn’t made up his mind on how to proceed with that case but that he would take into account what happened with similar cases in Magistrate Court.
Most of defendants who have gone to Magistrate Court had their charges dropped but didn’t get their bond money refunded. That’s not a deal that Epps is ready to accept, and neither was Stephen Sherman, who was arrested the same day as Epps.
Sherman went to court May 10, pleaded not guilty and asked for a bench trial. That was granted before Magistrate Judge Scott Allen on June 11. Sherman said Allen took one look at the charges, dismissed the case and ordered his money returned.
“I didn’t even have to plead my case, to be honest,” Sherman said.
Epps asked to have his case postponed on May 10 because he had just started a new job. The court granted that request, but his next court date wasn’t until July 2. When he pleaded not guilty, he said, Judge William Jennings III told him he would have to come back.
“He popped the gavel down, and I was done,” said Epps, who has been waiting to hear from the court since. “I have called and called and called and called.”
When The Augusta Chronicle inquired about Epps’ case this week, Magistrate Court officials said the case had been set for Sept. 17. They said Epps would be notified of the date.
Sherman said that he was pleased his case was dropped.
“I’m very happy about how the case turned out, but I’m not happy at all about my photo,” he said. “I was fully exonerated, and my face is still on a crime mug shot site.”