The final two tickets issued in the controversial case involving adult chess players in a upper Manhattan playground were dismissed today after the tickets were found to be "defective."
Attorney Norman Siegel brought to the attention of the court that the summons issued by the NYPD were written for people being in the playground after the park was closed. Mr. Siegel pointed out that it was 2:00 pm in the afternoon of Ocotober 20, 2010 when the tickets were issued.
On December 28, Yacahudah "YA" Harrison and Chris Perlata rejected a plea deal from a Manhattan Criminal Court judge and instead opted for a trial. They along with five others were issued tickets for playing chess in Emerson Playground in Inwood Hill Park in October. Under Parks Department rules playgrounds are off-limits to adults without children under 12. That rule however is arbitrarily enforced.
"I was pleased that the cloud of criminality was removed from these men but there are serious policy questions that have to be addressed," Norman Siegel said after the hearing. "One, the Police Department. Why they did what they did. This is quintessential abuse of discretion. Two: We have to begin a discussion with the Parks Department concerning the policy because people have a right a play chess in the park and by the same token children have a right to be in the park. They are not mutually exclusive. We can, in fact, need to do both.
Mr. Siegel said he has plans to call the general council and begin discussions.
"Although justice has been done for these guys, justice still hasn't been done and I will not rest until I can clearly say check-mate."
Many members of the general public regularly eat lunch inside the city's one thousand playgrounds without having children, and the city does not prevent the public from entering hundreds of bathrooms which are located inside playgrounds.
The Parks Department declined comment.
"Police acted appropriately in issuing criminal summonses to men in a section of
restricted to children with their parents or other minors," NYPD spokesman Paul J. Browne said in a statement to A Walk In The Park. "The precinct conditions team there responded to community complaints about drinking, drug use and other problems, including violations of Park Department regulations designed to protect children. Inwood Hill Park
Mr. Brown listed prior arrest records for two of those ticketed.
"The cavalier treatment of the story in effect damned police for doing their job. Had they not addressed the condition, no doubt they would have been damned for leaving the men in the children’s section."
- Geoffrey Croft
This story was updated to include a statement from the NYPD which was received after it was originally published.
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