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7 Masters Tournament ticket sale cases dismissed

Tuesday, May 8, 2012 11:02 AM
Last updated 7:54 PM
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Seven of the people charged in connection with the alleged buying and selling of Masters Tournament tickets had their cases dismissed Tuesday in Richmond County Magistrate Court.

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Aubrey Harwell (right) talks to a court clerk at Richmond County Magistrate Court. Harwell made the trip from Atlanta to answer to a charge of disorderly conduct in connection with  buying or selling Masters Tournament tickets. His case and six others were dismissed Tuesday.  JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
JACKIE RICCIARDI/STAFF
Aubrey Harwell (right) talks to a court clerk at Richmond County Magistrate Court. Harwell made the trip from Atlanta to answer to a charge of disorderly conduct in connection with buying or selling Masters Tournament tickets. His case and six others were dismissed Tuesday.

The seven were among nine people there in person or represented by an attorney to answer to disorderly conduct charges for efforts to buy or sell practice round tickets during Masters Week. Two others – Austin Smith and Mark Dickson, both of Aiken – pleaded not guilty and asked for jury trials. Their cases were transferred to State Court by Judge William D. Jennings III.

In each of the other cases, defendants either pleaded no contest or pleaded not guilty and asked for a bench trial before Jennings.

Solicitor Harry B. James recommended nolle prosequi, or not to prosecute the cases, and Jennings obliged, dismissing charges based on time served for most cases. Court officials said the defendants’ bond money, in most cases $500, should be refunded.

The remaining defendants will have their cases heard in Magistrate Court on Thursday.

Aubrey Harwell said he was glad to make the trip from Atlanta, given the outcome of his case.

“It was worth it,” Harwell said. “As far I understood, I’m dismissed and I get my money back.”

Still, Harwell said he won’t be coming back to a Masters Tournament, unless he already has ticket in hand.

“If somebody gave us tickets we might come back,” he said, although he was unsure about his wife’s feelings on the subject. “Even now she will have a real sour taste in her mouth about it.”

Harwell was among more than 40 people arrested and jailed during Masters Week in connection with buying and selling tickets to the tournament. Only two of those arrested were charged with violating the state scalping law, which prohibits selling tickets within 2,700 feet of a large sporting event.

Most of the defendants were charged with disorderly conduct and taken to jail until someone could post bond. The charge is a violation of a city ordinance, which is why they were summoned to Magistrate Court on Tuesday.

Peter Stephenson, however, wasn’t charged with trying to buy or sell Masters tickets, but with interfering with one of the deputies who arrested his daughter and son-in-law outside Gate 6 of Augusta National Golf Club. The 72-year-old lives in Aiken but is originally from Liverpool, England. He said he didn’t understand what was happening when the plainclothes officers grabbed his daughter, so he placed a hand on the arm of one of the deputies in an attempt to get the man’s attention.

James said he had spoken to Stephenson and his wife about what occurred and had “no reason not to believe them.”

He recommended the case be dropped.

“I would agree with the solicitor,” Jennings said. “Your actions are understandable, although they might have been technically a violation, he and I can see how a father would have done what you did in the desire to make certain that his daughter was safe.”

Stephenson was pleased with the outcome of his case, but still disappointed that his daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Mike Schmackle of Smyrna, Tenn., will still have a conviction on their records because they were unable to come to court.

The Schmackles were among the other cases, in which defendants did not show up for court. Their bond money was forfeited in lieu of a fine.

He said his daughter had just applied for a job that had asked about any arrests or convictions in her past.

“How was she supposed to answer? She had to say ‘yes,’ ” Stephenson said.

Comments (17) Add comment
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Patty-P
3516
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Patty-P 05/08/12 - 11:14 am
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Wow. Wonder if the judges

Wow. Wonder if the judges would have been as soft-hearted if it had been at some other event.

Insider Information
4009
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Insider Information 05/08/12 - 12:25 pm
1
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Cost of "justice"

How much did all of this cost taxpayers?

And, in the end, will anyone be convicted?

Sweet son
10114
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Sweet son 05/08/12 - 12:55 pm
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The Augusta National was Defeated!

Basically the AN was defeated over an ordinance which at best should carry only warnings (no record) and seizure of tickets involved. These people are our guests and should be treated as such. "Disorderly Conduct" on a record just looks bad and in no way does it represent the activity that was taking place. The Augusta National needs to do a better job of informing those who receive tickets/badges about the 2700 ft rule and work with the locals to figure out a citation/warning that better represents the activity. And finally, handcuffing these people like common criminals is just over the top!!! Don't get me wrong about the Sheriff's Department. They have a tough job and I support them 110 per cent.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 05/08/12 - 01:56 pm
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3
Since there are no signs

Since there are no signs banning skateboarding, is it okay to roll right up to the gates and ask a patron on their way to the car if you can purchase their used badge once they reach the end of the 2700 foot buffer, minus the distance from the gate, not where the conversation began, but at the point in it where the "asking of the badge" occurred? Really?

This is a pointless debate b/c logic has no involvement. Either a majority want the Tournament to be an extension of the club and maintained by their standards or the majority doesn't and we'll just have the same kind of deal that alot of venues have had for years. You know, where ticket-holders run the gauntlet of scalpers and miracle seekers to get to and from the gates. I always knew The Masters was like nothing else in the world. Congrats to all those who are pushing it to be more like other events and venues, I think you are going to get your way in the end. To those who didn't, my sincere condolences.

realitycheck09
307
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realitycheck09 05/08/12 - 02:25 pm
0
0
Problems with reporting

The problem, at times, with the reporters who work in the courts is that they have no idea what they're talking about. For example, "Solicitor Harry B. James recommended nolle prosequi, or not to prosecute the cases and Jennings obliged, sentencing most to time served with no court costs imposed."

The problem with that line is that it is internally inconsistent. Were the charges dropped or were they sentenced? It's one or the other. Either the charges were dismissed and their bond money was returned, or they plead guilty and were sentenced to time served. It ain't both

Steve Crawford
94
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Steve Crawford 05/08/12 - 03:02 pm
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Problems with reporting

Realitycheck09

You are correct about how that doesn't make sense. That's what I heard in court, but I wasn't able to raise my hand and ask the judge for a clarification. I've since been trying to clarify that information. I think a more accurate description should be something like: "dismissed the case, based on the time served, and imposed no court costs."
The revised story will clear this up. Thanks for reading.

realitycheck09
307
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realitycheck09 05/08/12 - 03:14 pm
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Okay, thanks Steve. Sorry to

Okay, thanks Steve. Sorry to throw stones!

Little Lamb
45398
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Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 04:18 pm
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Training

Let's hope before next year's tooo-ah-na-mint that the sheriff's department engages all deputies (including contractors & retirees) in some serious training on this scalping law, the fact that soliticiting tickets is not a crime, that ticket brokers have more restrictions on re-selling tickets than do original ticket purchasers, that all sales (whether a broker or an original ticket purchaser) must take place outside the 2,700-foot buffer zone, that there are no state sanctions on the buyers of tickets, and that no plain-clothes officer be allowed to intervene in ticket transactions.

Also, some city lawyers and surveyors along with Augusta National lawyers should agree where the 2,700-foot radius actually is before the practice rounds start.

Do I think such things will occur? Nah.

Little Lamb
45398
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Little Lamb 05/08/12 - 03:48 pm
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1
Criminals

Well, it looks like the ones who did not show up in court today have been tagged as convicted criminals and will have to be careful how they answer those, “Have you ever been arrested” questions on applications for the rest of their lives.

FriedFacts
61
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FriedFacts 05/08/12 - 05:56 pm
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The court decision was about
Unpublished

The court decision was about as illogical as this whole incident.

justthefacts
21409
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justthefacts 05/08/12 - 08:47 pm
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soapy, in 2012 the 4 day

soapy, in 2012 the 4 day ticket was $250.

DuhJudge
206
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DuhJudge 05/09/12 - 07:42 am
1
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A sign should read thusly.

A sign should read thusly. "Please do not ask Patrons to share or sell their badges. $500 fine."

Little Lamb
45398
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Little Lamb 05/09/12 - 08:46 am
2
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Police State

At our neighborhood association meeting last week, the main topic of discussion was other people's lawns. Many of the attendees got worked up into a lather and spoke loudly and vehemently against their neighbors who do not mow their lawns often enough to suit the protesters, and against those who allow various species of weeds to go to seed. They seethed and asked for somebody else to confront their neighbors because they did not want to do the confronting themselves.

It must be hard for a law enforcement officer to observe behavior that the officer does not personally approve of, but that is lawful. You know that the adrenalin level rises in the officer; then the blood pressure. That is what happened during the practice rounds this year. The officers observed people asking to buy used tickets from people exiting the practice rounds. The officers didn't like those people's lack of decorum. They didn't think it was seemly, or civilized. But there was no law the officers could fall back on. The officers complained to their superiors, who then sought advice from a judge. This judge, one William D. Jennings III, told the superior officers, “Well, you can always arrest anybody for disorderly conduct. Then we can hassle it out in court.”

That sends us down a slippery slope. It could lead to a police state mentality. Just crack some heads. Just round up the usual suspects, and order will be restored for a while.

The sheriff's office got out of control on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Masters Week this year. The error is being corrected in court this week by the dismissal of the charges, but real damage was done. I hope Judge Jennings will go farther and dismiss the charges against those who have a hardship in returning to Augusta—those visitors who came here from far away—and return their bond money by mail.

An apology from the sheriff would be a healing gesture; but I'm not holding my breath.

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 05/09/12 - 10:31 am
0
0
"lack of decorum" That's

"lack of decorum"

That's exactly what bothers me about this. The Masters is the pinnacle of decorum, but walk out the gate and Augusta embraces the opposite. Sacrifice decorum to be typical? That's the formula?

Little Lamb
45398
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Little Lamb 05/09/12 - 01:32 pm
0
0
Decorum

Proper decorum is a good thing, but we must not infringe on people's civil rights to achieve decorum.

Justnosey
2
Points
Justnosey 05/09/12 - 02:11 pm
0
0
That would be the absolute

That would be the absolute right to stand at the gate and beg for tickets....

David Parker
7923
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David Parker 05/09/12 - 02:44 pm
0
0
I get that arresting those

I get that arresting those folks on the charge of Disorderly Conduct may not be the ideal. But to get folks to stop hounding the patrons, strong action was needed. The RCSO did the best they could to enforce something that we needed. Now that they have egg on their face, lets write the laws in a way so that gate-trollers aren't protected from prosecution. The town and the tournament are still going to be awesome even without the ticket peddlers and beggers.

Little Lamb
45398
Points
Little Lamb 05/09/12 - 03:05 pm
1
0
Berckmans

Here is one way to improve things in the future — just have the city deed over Berckmans Rd. to the Augusta National Golf Club. They could leave just enough road in city hands so the musicians can get into Jay's Music Store parking lot, but give the road to ANGC all the way down to the end of the National's property where the Apartments start.

That way, ANGC could deal with the patrons and Richmond County sheriff's deputies would not be needed. ANGC could hire private security to escort rowdy ticket solicitors and sellers off their property. Or better yet, ANGC would not even let anyone into the parking lots or on what is left of Berckmans Rd. without a ticket). Decorum would reign, and RCSO personnel would not have to harass anyone because ANGC property would be contiguous from parking lot to gate.

Of course, the city would also deed Heath Dr. from Berckmans to Stanley Dr. to the National; and they would deed all of McCarthy Dr. to the National.

It's a win-win.

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