Concluding yesterday’s pair of small items from the news, this one is on the lighter side: How long do you think you would defend yourself from charges of disorderly conduct? Matthew Jones has been working on it for more than three years now, and get this: his “disorderly conduct” involved hanging out on the sidewalk in Times Square:
Millions of people have paused to stand amid the hustle, bustle and neon of Times Square. And sure, those who pause — to gawk, talk or eat a gyro — can slow the progress of pedestrians around them.
But when Matthew Jones of Brooklyn lingered on the corner of 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue in the early morning of June 12, 2004, gabbing with friends as other pedestrians tried to get by, something unusual happened: He was arrested for it.
According to the original complaint against Mr. Jones, the officer “observed defendant along with a number of other individuals standing around” on a public sidewalk in June 2004. Mr. Jones was “not moving, and that as a result of defendants’ behavior, numerous pedestrians in the area had to walk around defendants.”
At 2 in the morning.
Now, here’s the thing: No one said that he was annoying or abusive, nor that the inconvenience to anyone was serious. No one claimed that he did anything that many, many, many people don't do in Times Square every day. Well, except for resisting arrest, a separate charge that he isn’t contesting.
And so Mr Jones has been moving up the courts, trying to get his conviction vacated and the charges dismissed. This past week his case went before the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. The court seemed sympathetic to his case, but we won’t know until they rule on it, probably next month. (Next month? How long does it take to decide something like this? Oh, well: he’s been waiting for more than three years; he can wait another month.)
The last word for now goes to a local:
Across the street stood Chaya Coppersmith, 18. “That’s just completely ridiculous,” Ms. Coppersmith said when told of Mr. Jones’s case. “Nobody can walk in Times Square. Everyone’s standing around in Times Square. That’s what it’s for.”
Update, 21 Nov: Mr Jones’s conviction has been overturned, making his three-year fight worthwhile:
The Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest court, threw out the conviction yesterday of a man who was arrested for standing and not moving on a Times Square corner in 2004.
The conviction was upheld by an appellate court, but yesterday, the Court of Appeals unanimously reversed that decision. Writing for the court, Judge Carmen Beauchamp Ciparick concluded that the allegations in the document used to charge Mr. Jones did not meet the burden of factual proof required.
“Nothing in the information indicates how the defendant, when he stood in the middle of a sidewalk at 2:01 a.m., had the intent to or recklessly created a risk of causing ‘public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm,‘-" Judge Ciparick wrote.
She later added: “Something more than a mere inconvenience of pedestrians is required to support the charge.
“Otherwise, any person who happens to stop on a sidewalk — whether to greet another, to seek directions or simply to regain one’s bearings — would be subject to prosecution under this statute.”