7 Masters Tournament ticket sale cases dismissed

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.

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.

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