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Masters tickets arrest cases will go to court, city solicitor says

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 4:07 PM
Last updated Wednesday, May 2, 2012 1:57 AM
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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.

Comments (35) Add comment
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CarlA
114
Points
CarlA 05/01/12 - 04:22 pm
3
2
Very interesting change of

Very interesting change of heart by the Solicitor's office in such a short amount of time! I guess the city has already lost the PR battle, might as well go through with the cases. OR, maybe the Mr. James was ordered to proceed because of pressure from other outside parties.

raul
4448
Points
raul 05/01/12 - 04:28 pm
4
0
This turned into a real

This turned into a real bucket of worms.

rmwardsr
525
Points
rmwardsr 05/01/12 - 04:40 pm
6
0
This all boils down to one

This all boils down to one thing: "Ka-Ching$$$"

Little Lamb
44896
Points
Little Lamb 05/01/12 - 04:42 pm
6
0
The Georgia ticket re-selling

The Georgia ticket re-selling law makes it a crime to re-sell a ticket within 2,700 feet of the entrances to the venue. That law imposes no criminal activity nor any other sanction to the buyer of the ticket.

The city would do well to drop the charges against the solicitors of tickets and/or buyers of tickets. You can petition, solicit, beg, cajole, etc. and you are not violating the ticket re-selling state law.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 05/01/12 - 04:43 pm
5
1
And Augusta Georgia just

And Augusta Georgia just ain't no place to be

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 05/01/12 - 04:46 pm
5
1
Shoot, naw this ain't hell

Shoot, naw this ain't hell but you can see it from here. Just send us the money you were gonna spend here and stay away, golf fans. We do things mighty funny round these parts.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 05/01/12 - 05:08 pm
10
1
Justice is blind?.....In
Unpublished

Justice is blind?.....In Augusta, GA it's brain dead.

FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 05/01/12 - 05:57 pm
0
0
Sheriff Strength wants them
Unpublished

Sheriff Strength wants them prosecuted, yet he gets the charges dropped against one. Huh? Then the Solicitor drops the charges against one without remembering why. Huh? Maybe it's because a minister and a 72 year old showing up in court would show the WORLD just how silly Augusta, GA law enforcement can be.

FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 05/01/12 - 06:03 pm
0
0
I get the feeling Richmond
Unpublished

I get the feeling Richmond County is going to be in for a surprise. These are well heeled, responsible, law abiding and principled people who don't want a record for such a matter. This is going to end up costing the county lots I believe.

LL makes a great point that buying is not against the law. It also appeared from earlier statements that many cases didn't involve an exchange or potential exchange of money.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 05/01/12 - 06:17 pm
7
0
What changed in the past few

What changed in the past few days to make the solicitor do an about face?

Didn't the sheriff say he was meeting with his Masters to determine how to proceed?

nnaugusta
533
Points
nnaugusta 05/01/12 - 06:55 pm
7
1
When all the lawsuits are

When all the lawsuits are done, Richmond county will have another reason to raise taxes......to pay these people.

nnaugusta
533
Points
nnaugusta 05/01/12 - 07:01 pm
6
1
What a legacy for the out

What a legacy for the out going sheriff to leave behind! This is almost laughable. Scratch that, it IS laughable UNLESS you are the person having to come from Canada or California to answer this moronic charge. I see some future "egg on faces" coming up!

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 05/01/12 - 07:18 pm
2
6
They should drop all of the

They should drop all of the charges, then next year just let them all gather outside the gates and do as they please. I mean what's the point in having the rules if we don't think anyone should abide by them?

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 05/01/12 - 07:57 pm
1
8
This is the right thing to

This is the right thing to do. Majority posting on here do not even know the facts.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 05/01/12 - 07:58 pm
0
2
Know as much as the article

Know as much as the article tells us.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 05/01/12 - 08:15 pm
6
2
Oh, really, highsociety?
Unpublished

Oh, really, highsociety? Please 'splain it to us ignorant folk.

John Locke
295
Points
John Locke 05/01/12 - 09:32 pm
7
2
I've come to the conclusion

I've come to the conclusion that Augusta-Richmond County has to be a comedy show - you really can't make this stuff up. Just when you think they can't be that stupid, well.....they demonstrate "stuck on stupid" skills like no other place I know or have lived. This will now entertain us for awhile - especially when the cases get judged in the courtrooms. Thanks for prosecuting - you could have just let this drop and forgotten about it. But hey as the solicitor said "factual bases" really? Can they be dismissed because of improper spelling and grammar?

dichotomy
31683
Points
dichotomy 05/01/12 - 11:08 pm
5
0
Trying to buy tickets does

Trying to buy tickets does not seem to be a crime under the scalping law. And trying to buy tickets is certainly not "disorderly" conduct. This amounts to nothing more than our taxpayer funded police and taxpayer funded procsecutors enforcing the Augusta National's ticket policy for them at our expense. Who gives a fiddler's damn if someone sells a ticket? I don't. I certainly don't care if someone buys a ticket and I don't see where it would be disorderly conduct or any other crime to buy a ticket.

FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 05/02/12 - 04:26 am
0
0
Either they will be found not
Unpublished

Either they will be found not guilty and the county will be sued by those arrested or the cases will be appealed and overturned. Then the suits will come.

Either way the county is going to spend lots. These folks are ticked and won't back down. They also have the support of many in the community.

FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 05/02/12 - 04:59 am
0
0
What should be explored and
Unpublished

What should be explored and maybe this can be brought out in the legal proceedings is if Master's tickets GIVEN to Commissioners, the Sheriff and others because of their official positons are ever sold or given to others for favors. "Says right on the ticket you can't do that"...right?

scgator
1042
Points
scgator 05/02/12 - 05:19 am
4
0
MEANWHILE, this is not

MEANWHILE, this is not considered SCALPING; https://reservations.sportstravel.com/IPROTOUR/BUY1.ASP?ACTION=NEW&DP=&P...
No wonder locals NEVER get tickets! On the plus side, the Masters Tournament is good for Augusta's citizens; it's the one week a year that the parks and recreation department cuts the grass and does their jobs.....LOLOL

FriedFacts
61
Points
FriedFacts 05/02/12 - 06:18 am
0
0
SCGator, interesting website.
Unpublished

SCGator, interesting website. They use the Marriott on the Riverwalk name in their ad. I wonder if the Marriott on the river is involved in this ticket scaping venture? Shouldn't the sheriff investigate. After all, "it says right on the ticket...."

Little Lamb
44896
Points
Little Lamb 05/02/12 - 07:54 am
4
0
High Society posted: This is

High Society posted:

This is the right thing to do. Majority posting on here do not even know the facts.

I am the minority. I actually read the Georgia Code (Title 43, Chapter 4B, Articles 25 - 31) and found that it is legal to scalp tickets as long as you are far enough away from the gates. There are absolutely no restrictions on how much you sell the ticket for. You can charge way more than the posted price if the market will bear it. There are also absolutely no restrictions nor sanctions on the buyer of the tickets. The re-seller is the one who must abide by the restrictions.

So tell me, Mr. Harry James, why did you decide not to prosecute the man from Port St. Lucie, who sold a ticket within the 2,700-foot zone, but still are prosecuting the foreign student (at a local university) who bought it?

It is bizarre, but if you've ever met Harry James, you know it is par for the course. Buying a ticket from a scalper is no crime. Soliciting a ticket from a scalper is no crime. Re-selling a ticket within 2,700 feet of the entrances to a large entertainment or sporting event violates state law. We are witnessing Harry in Wonderland.

Little Lamb
44896
Points
Little Lamb 05/02/12 - 08:13 am
3
0
We're Stuck. . . . . . . . .

We're Stuck. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Augusta citizens are stuck with Harry James as our magistrate court solicitor. He is politically connected and there is no way he will be asked to leave. But isn't it sad how he disdains the free press? Doesn't it make you angry how shabby he treats reporter Steve Crawford when Crawford is doing his job trying to report the truth to us citizens? Please re-read this from the story above:

[City solicitor Harry] 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. . . . “I don’t remember the exact facts of that case,” said James when asked about the motion he filed on Thursday.

Looks like ole Harry has a case of Hillary Clintonitis. He cannot remember. Do you believe that? I don't; not for a minute. I believe that Harry James flat-out lied to a Chronicle reporter. I am ashamed that the Augusta government keeps a person like that on the payroll.

itsanotherday1
41394
Points
itsanotherday1 05/02/12 - 08:13 am
2
0
Politics as usual.

Politics as usual.

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/02/12 - 09:02 am
1
4
I've said it before. I don't

I've said it before. I don't like trolls at the gates of this tournament.

Haterz gonna hate, but the event is the most sought after ticket in sports. It doesn't seem that way when folks from the UK and around the world travel here badgeless with no promise of getting in the gates. Yet they arrive first week of April in droves and begin the process of "acquiring" their entrance credentials. I've gone years w/o getting in and I live here. So why should I be sympathetic to someone who came down here with no badge, tried to bypass policy to get one, and got caught and fined for it?

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 05/02/12 - 09:14 am
1
0
What's with the new point

What's with the new point system? Do we win a prize for points or something?

Little Lamb
44896
Points
Little Lamb 05/02/12 - 09:24 am
4
0
David, those people who were

David, those people who were arrested for soliciting tickets broke no law. The scalping law applies only to the sellers of tickets, and then only if the sale occurred within 2,700 feet of the entrances.

Are you in favor of our police department trumping up "disorderly conduct" charges for nothing more than asking for a ticket?

It's perfectly okay for you not to like the trolls at the gates, but it is not okay to arrest them for trolling.

Little Lamb
44896
Points
Little Lamb 05/02/12 - 09:57 am
2
0
We read above that there are

We read above that there are more than 30 cases pending in ticketgate. What are we to make of this statement from city solicitor Harry James?

“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.”

Does that mean that two-thirds of the cases have the same factual base? Does it mean that the one-third with different factual bases are the only ones that will be tried, while the two-thirds will be dismissed? Or does it mean that James was kow-towed by the sheriff and will try them all, with no more dismissals upon his recommendation?

If ace reporter Steve Crawford were to ask those questions of city solicitor Harry James, would James answer, “I can't remember”??

David Parker
7923
Points
David Parker 05/02/12 - 10:06 am
2
2
Double L, I empathize with

Double L, I empathize with how bad everyone wants to go. What I know though, is that if you put all those arrested in jail for life, the Master's would still be the greatest event in the universe and people would still flock here. If you think they won't b/c of these arrests, think again. The only ones that won't be so ready to jump on the big bird and fly across the pond will be those without a badge. Isn't that reasonable and needed considering the troll density at the gates and parking areas?

Bottom line, if you don't have a badge, you have no business being on National CC property or a public roadway, unless you are dropping off or picking up. And the silly part is, you can walk 2700 feet from the gate and you are welcome to setup a kiosk for getting your hot little hands on a badge.

I'm reasonable though, give amnesty to the current lot and reword the ordinance to encompass all angles so that all these "exceptions" and loopholes, don't gain a footing.

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