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Some plan to challenge Masters Tournament ticket arrests in Augusta court

Monday, May 7, 2012 5:45 PM
Last updated Tuesday, May 8, 2012 1:49 AM
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About 20 people arrested for the alleged buying and selling of Masters Tournament practice round tickets are on the Tuesday calendar for Richmond County Magistrate Court.

Just how many will show up to answer for the disorderly conduct charge is anybody’s guess. Some defendants would have to travel from as far away as California or Canada.

Sarah Schmackle said it will be almost impossible for her and her husband to drive in from Smyrna, Tenn. She had her hopes raised when Solicitor Harry James had talked about dropping charges in all the cases, only to have them dashed when he changed his mind.

“I really don’t know what to do,” said Schmackle, who said she was disappointed and confused by the whole situation.

Schmackle said that they had come to Augusta in April after receiving practice round tickets through the lottery. Their group, five adults and four children, arrived at Gate 6 of Augusta National Golf Club with the mistaken notion that children could enter without a ticket.

After they were turned away, Schmackle volunteered to take the children back to her father’s home in Aiken while the others enjoyed the day at the Masters.

“I was going to take the kids back and let them swim,” Schmackle said.

She said someone overheard their conversation and asked if they had an extra ticket. Schmackle had just agreed to sell it when undercover deputies pounced, handcuffing her and her husband, she said.

Schmackle’s 72-year-old father, Peter Stephenson, said he was confused by what was happening and placed his hand on the arm of one of the men holding his daughter.

“I just wanted to explain to them what was happening,” Stephenson said.

Stephenson also was placed in handcuffs and taken to jail.

“I didn’t know he was a police officer,” said Stephenson, adding that he intends to explain everything in court to Chief Magistrate Judge William D. Jennings III.

Stephenson and anyone else who comes to court will have several options. They can choose to plead no contest or plead not guilty and request a bench trial. Either way they will have to see what Jennings will decide. Another option is to ask for a jury trial in State Court.

That’s what Augusta attorney Chris Corley said he will to do for his clients.

“I plan on being in court long enough to enter a not guilty plea, sign the paper and walk out,” he said.

Solicitor General Charles Evans said customarily the State Court doesn’t grant jury trial requests for city ordinance charges, but in these cases he will take a look at the facts before deciding what should be done. Either way, Corley said he doesn’t see how people can be charged with disorderly conduct in most of these cases, because the city ordinance requires that in order to be charged someone must be engaged in unlawful activity.

He said from his research most of those arrested were accused of either scalping or soliciting scalping. He said in order to charge someone with soliciting, there has to be a felony involved.

“You have to be encouraging someone to commit a felony,” he said.

Violating the state scalping law is a misdemeanor, so that doesn’t apply, Corley said.

Also, the state scalping only directly prohibits selling tickets within 2,700 feet of an event, not buying.

“The buyer is not addressed in the scalping law,” he said.

This was the reason given by Solicitor General Charles Evans, when authorities recently dropped scalping charges against Edward Testa, an Ohio man who was arrested with numerous tickets and a large amount of money outside the gates of the Augusta National.

Evans said because Testa was trying to purchase, not sell tickets that the state statute didn’t seem to apply.

So, if it isn’t unlawful to ask for a ticket or to purchase one, then there is no unlawful activity to support a disorderly conduct charge, Corley said.

“You got to provide for what the unlawful act is,” he said.

As for selling, that seems to be a violation of the state law, but James has already dropped charges against a Florida man who admitted to doing just that. Sheriff Ronnie Strength also requested that charges be dropped against an Iowa man who was arrested for asking for tickets.

Aubrey Harwell said he figures that if authorities have already dropped charges against two other people, he doesn’t see why he can’t get similar treatment. He will drive in from Atlanta to see if he can avoid paying a fine for buying two tickets for $20 in front of a Richmond County sheriff’s deputy on April 3.

“I guess I’ll plead dumb and see what happens,” Harwell said.

Comments (9) Add comment
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my.voice
4731
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my.voice 05/07/12 - 06:01 pm
0
1
Maybe the judge will put them

Maybe the judge will put them in THE HOLE.

broad street narrow mind
348
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broad street narrow mind 05/07/12 - 06:09 pm
1
3
angc is a welfare queen
Unpublished

just another way the national is going to cost us money. but look at all we get back-- a golf lesson lottery for poor kids! (who'll never be able to afford actually golfing alone or with friends or family, but still! it's a charity, right?)

Just My Opinion
5470
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Just My Opinion 05/07/12 - 06:58 pm
3
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Law...can't live with it or

Law...can't live with it or without it! This is an excellent example of how ridiculous the interpretation of the law has become.

raul
4638
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raul 05/07/12 - 07:24 pm
2
3
@BSNM

Why are you so against the Augusta National Golf Club? Or are you just against anything that to you represents wealth and power?

On a side note, even if SOME of these folks may have technically violated the law, I do not think the judge will support the charge of disorderly conduct. Totally mischarged.

csraguy
2250
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csraguy 05/07/12 - 07:41 pm
2
2
1. ANGC needs to add plenty

1. ANGC needs to add plenty of signs to include "No Trespassing" within their parking lots, etc. w/o a ticket and signs regarding the selling of tickets.

2. The law does not cover people "asking" for tickets or where no money has changed hands so if that was noted in the police report, drop the charges. Part of the problem is people congregating at the exit, etc. so deal with it a different way and secure the area as they do at major events all over the country. When ANYONE who is a non-ticket holder starts to congregate, issue them a verbal or written warning and if they return at all, arrest them at that time and note they were previously warned.

3. People complaining about the ANGC or why these arrests took place only need go to any other city with a major sporting event such as this and they will see the exact same thing occur with arrests made. The only difference is that most major sporting events change locations each year compared to the Masters. Additionally, the event is billed for police services (just as are most major events around the country) so the cost to taxpayers complaint simply is not real.

4. BSNM: The Augusta National for the past several years has donated no less than THREE MILLION DOLLARS PER YEAR to local charities and the amount of tax revenue brought into the city is more in 1 week than any other full month during the year so they do more than their fare share for us here.

FriedFacts
61
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FriedFacts 05/07/12 - 09:49 pm
0
0
The National donates a lot to
Unpublished

The National donates a lot to the community. The last year I remember they gave about SEVEN MILLION. The officers working there make a pretty penny thanks to the National to supplement their sparse salaries. Still these arrests were a travesty of justice as the attorney has pointed out. Those facts he brought up seem to be ironclad.

The whole problem is Ronnie Strength, who for whatever reason, informed James he wanted the cases prosecuted.

Iwannakno
1533
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Iwannakno 05/07/12 - 09:30 pm
0
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So what? They donate to
Unpublished

So what? They donate to charity. That doesn't give them the right to use the police as their own nazi storm troopers. Drop the charges and move on.

lsmith
105
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lsmith 05/07/12 - 09:37 pm
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0
The economic impact of the
Unpublished

The economic impact of the Masters Golf tournament is no excuse for strong arming fans with heavy handed enforcement of an ill conceived ticket scalping law. The law was intended for one thing and is now being bastardized as a "one size fits all" method for controlling the area around the National. The Augusta National has too much influence in the governmental affairs of this town.

I have to turn my back in disgust at the national and local authorities for the rude treatment of visitors to the city.

HighSociety
1840
Points
HighSociety 05/07/12 - 10:06 pm
1
1
Csraguy, I completely agree

Csraguy, I completely agree with your points.

broad street narrow mind
348
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broad street narrow mind 05/08/12 - 12:58 am
1
0
i bet this costs us money.
Unpublished

i bet this costs us money. anyone think otherwise? think angc will cover the court costs and lawsuits?

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 05/08/12 - 07:35 am
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I suspect that the

I suspect that the complainers that encouraged the Sherriff to enforce the law are the ticket mongers that it is designed to protect the patrons from. It is all about competition and money. The judge will not show much mercy because then the ticket mongers will use his ruling for their own arguments. All could be avoided with signs.

Little Lamb
45382
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Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 08:19 am
1
0
Right of Way

I hope some legal gurus will clear up something for me — Berkmans Road is a city street, right? Is there an easement, or right of way, on either side of the street for pedestrian travel and utility access? How wide would such an easement be? Where does Augusta National's private property right begin, at the easement or where the asphalt stops?

In other words, if Augusta National put up "No Trespassing" signs in the grassy parking lots, where would the applicable property line be? Doesn't the public have a certain leeway to stand on the side of the road even if the property is private?

Little Lamb
45382
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Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 08:23 am
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Precedent

Steve Crawford wrote:

As for selling, that seems to be a violation of the state law, but James has already dropped charges against a Florida man who admitted to doing just that. Sheriff Ronnie Strength also requested that charges be dropped against an Iowa man who was arrested for asking for tickets.

These two examples (one for buying and one for selling) will set the precedent for the magistrate judge or the state court judge to dismiss the charge and return the bond money to anyone who requests it today. But for those who don't bother to show up, well, the city has already got your $500 and will keep it.

Little Lamb
45382
Points
Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 10:37 am
1
0
Everywhere a sign

DuhJudge posted:

All could be avoided with signs.

Somehow, I doubt it.

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