Crime & Courts

Richmond Co. | Columbia Co. | Aiken Co. |

Augusta solicitor might ask to dismiss Masters ticket charges

Solicitor reviews ticket-related charges; dismissal possible

Friday, April 27, 2012 4:44 PM
Last updated Saturday, April 28, 2012 10:43 PM
  • Follow Crime & courts

A city prosecutor says he probably will recommend dropping the charges against most of the people arrested for their involvement in buy­ing and selling Masters Tour­nament tickets this month.

Steve Crawford/FILE
More than 40 people were arrested during Masters Week in connection with buying, selling or soliciting Masters tickets. Most – more than 30 – were charged with disorderly conduct, not ticket scalping, and taken to the Richmond County jail to be booked.

Harry B. James, the solicitor for Richmond County Magistrate Court, said that he has begun reviewing the cases under his jurisdiction and that he is inclined to recommend dismissal for all.

“Most of those persons arrested stayed in jail for two to five hours,” James said. “So I’m looking at several possibilities, including requesting the court to (dismiss) based on time served.”

More than 40 people were arrested during Masters Week in connection with buying, selling or soliciting Masters tickets outside the gates of Augusta National Golf Club. Most – more than 30 – were charged with disorderly conduct, not ticket scalping, and taken to the Richmond County jail to be booked. They remained there until someone posted at least $500 bond, which will be refunded if the charges are dropped.

James said he has heard complaints from several of those charged with disorderly conduct and is weighing those complaints against the facts of the cases. He said most of the people were from out of town and unfamiliar with local laws. Considering that, the fact that they spent time in jail and, in some cases, lost their Masters tickets and money, could be enough punishment for their transgressions, he said.

In addition, most of those charged have long distances to travel – as far away as Can­ada and California – to return, should they want to have their day in court, he said.

“You have to temper justice with mercy sometimes,” he said.

James said that he had looked at about a quarter of the cases so far and that unless someone had additional charges or caused problems for the arresting officer, he thinks dismissal is likely.

Should he choose to do so, James will have to make a formal motion with the court, and it will be up to the presiding magistrate judge to dismiss the case. Chief Magistrate Judge Williams Jennings III said Friday he could not comment on the cases that might come before him. He will wait for James’ motion, if it comes. In general, he said judges are inclined to follow the recommendation of a prosecutor who chooses not to proceed, but not always.

James said he will make recommendations next week. Most of the cases have very similar circumstances, so just dismissing a few won’t be a good option, he said.

“My policy is what we do for one, we do for all,” James said.

If James moves to dismiss all the cases, however, Sheriff Ronnie Strength said, he won’t remain quiet.

“If he does that he is going to hear from me, because it was violation of the law,” Strength said. “There is just one question on any of this, ‘Is it against the law or is it not against the law?’ ”

Strength says he stands behind the arrests because something has to be done to discourage the swarms of people who wait outside of Augusta National’s gates harassing patrons for tickets as they leave. He said no one is considering how the golf patrons feel about that.

“I’ve got two or three calls from patrons who said, ‘Thank you for what you were doing out there,’ ” he said.

The sheriff’s office has tried warnings and issuing citations to those who violate the state law by selling tickets within 2,700 feet of the gates, but people persist in doing it no matter what, Strength said.

“It is just like panhandling,” he said. “We don’t want that downtown, so what would you do if somebody was asking for money out in front of your business?”

Strength said he and other officials will probably have a “sit down” with Augusta National to see what can be done to improve the situation for next year, including the possibility of posting signs addressing the state scalping law.

James said signs to help visitors understand the law would be good to consider.

“We don’t want to give the city a bad name,” James said. “We don’t want our Masters visitors thinking that the city is trying to take advantage of our guests.”

Comments (36) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 04/28/12 - 05:01 pm
0
3
When you go into a clothing

When you go into a clothing store and decide to take a few shirts and not pay should you be charged? Were are the signs that say you must pay? We need signs every where now to guide us in the right and wrongs of life? These individuals knew what they were doing.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 04/28/12 - 10:08 pm
2
0
HighSociety, it was just a

HighSociety, it was just a question.

I have a sneaking feeling that stealing is illegal in every city, county and state in this country, and I bet everyone knows it.

But scalping is legal in some places and illegal in others. How many locals know Augusta's 2,700 feet law? What is the law in Columbia County, Aiken County or anywhere else?

BamaMan
2276
Points
BamaMan 04/28/12 - 10:20 pm
1
0
Kissofdeath, just WHO

Kissofdeath, just WHO mentioned color??!! No one but YOU! This has nothing to do with color. All colors & nationalities were on that golf course. One thing you DIDN'T see though, were pants below the butt attire. Look in the mirror to see who the racist is here.

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 04/29/12 - 01:56 am
0
0
It's a state law not a county

It's a state law not a county ordinance, and ignorance is not a defense. If it was the prisons would be empty.

FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 04/29/12 - 07:03 am
2
0
Thanks to reporter Steve
Unpublished

Thanks to reporter Steve Crawford for exposing this travesty. It appears the power of the press worked well. There's a direct conflict of interest with Sheriff Strength in this matter since he is given a free ticket by the National worth thousands.

Doug E. Fresh
23
Points
Doug E. Fresh 04/29/12 - 09:13 am
1
0
They drop the charge or get

They drop the charge or get sued. Read the letter of the law to meet the charge of "Disorderly Conduct".
http://law.onecle.com/georgia/16/16-11-39.html

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 04/29/12 - 09:58 am
1
0
The DO is a catch all law,

The DO is a catch all law, used many times inappropriately. It appears that Mr. James is trying to look at each case individually and do the right thing. Ronnie Strength has a tremendous responsibility during this time of year when thousands of visitors are coming into our city and spending millions of dollars; I understand his frustration and need to meet with the National. Exercising proper judgment in this situation would be difficult. Posting signs, newspaper, Internet, and ticket disclosures are a must.

bigc
1
Points
bigc 04/29/12 - 10:26 am
1
0
@ Doug E. that is the State

@ Doug E. that is the State Disorderly Conduct but going by the $500 bond amount I would guess they were charged with the County Ordinance.
Here is a Scooby Doo conspiracy theory; the hosts of the golf event don't want the guest to be harassed by the ticket seekers so they seek enforcement from the sheriff, people are charged and problem solved for the day.
Seekers post bond seek jury trial so the case goes from Magistrate Court to State Court. Solicitor drops charges makes the Sheriff out as bad guy for charging the seekers, Sheriff makes Solicitor out as bad guy for dropping charges against law breaking seekers.
Meanwhile those who sought to have problem solved have clean hands cuz everyone else did the dirty work.

Kendall
0
Points
Kendall 04/29/12 - 11:08 am
0
0
bigc--great comment and it is
Unpublished

bigc--great comment and it is appreciated. One thought: Those from out of town living perhaps thousands of miles away will just plead out and go on with their lives. Law enforcement knows this; that's why they know they can screw with people's lives. However IF one those people went to trial and I were on the jury, I would probably vote not quilty. In fact, it would have to rise to a very high level for me to vote anyone quilty of disorderly conduct. Even if they used section (3) of the law as evidence, the language would have to be VERY VERY VERY threatening, because to me, the 1st admendment of the constitution trumps idiots in Atlanta making state law every time.

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 04/29/12 - 06:27 pm
0
0
Kendall, if you lived

Kendall, if you lived thousands of miles away why would you travel so far not have having a ticket? I wouldn't drive to the Civic Center downtown if I didn't have a ticket for an event. I still call bs on these so called innocent people.

Equaltreatmentforall
49
Points
Equaltreatmentforall 04/29/12 - 08:56 pm
1
0
This is a stupid rule to

This is a stupid rule to start with, instead of dropping the charges drop the controls. If someone can rent a house for $20,000 for the week with "Free" badge thrown what's the difference?

914darknlovely
8
Points
914darknlovely 04/30/12 - 12:58 am
0
0
I think that it is a slap int

I think that it is a slap int the face to the Sheriff's Department to blanketly dismiss the charges. I've never had a juridiction consider how I would be inconvience and/or feel about the jurisdiction as a result of having to answer to a ticket. They certainly didn't care that I was a visitor. This is a pathetic and wasted public relations decision/effort. I'm insulted by the reasonning and "rationale."

Willow Bailey
20580
Points
Willow Bailey 05/01/12 - 08:25 am
0
0
Dark&lovely, it isn't the

Dark&lovely, it isn't the same situation. When you drive through Greensboro and get ticketed, it will not be discussed in major syndications. This sporting/ social/economical event puts Augusta on the map, worldwide. Smarter, cooler heads must prevail. And that begins with the men running the National. Kudos to Mr James and Ronnie Strenght for both looking into a better solution.

Little Lamb
45360
Points
Little Lamb 05/01/12 - 12:52 pm
0
0
Strength is talking out of

Strength is talking out of three or four sides of his mouth. He mentions state law, but he charged these people with violating a city ordinance that has nothing to do with ticket scalping. The state law is drafted to apply only to the sellers of the tickets. There are no penalties for the buyers. But Strength & company arrested more potential buyers than potential sellers.

Somehow, Strength has in his mind that asking for tickets is like asking for a hooker. It's not the same thing, Ronnie.

Back to Top

Search Augusta jobs