Two acquitted of trespass over bikes locked to sign
By: Reed Williams
Published: October 20, 2011
RICHMOND, Va. --
A Richmond judge has acquitted two people of trespassing after they locked their bicycles to a no-parking sign on a police officer's residential property.
District Judge Phillip L. Hairston found Paige Connors and Alex Hayes not guilty of misdemeanor trespassing after a trial on Tuesday.
"Both defendants were acquitted for the obvious reason that they had not committed the crime of trespassing," said Steven Benjamin, who represented Connors and Hayes pro bono.
Connors, 21, and Hayes, 24, were visiting a friend on April 6 and secured their bikes on a sign that is on the property of Sgt. Percy Smith, near Grayland and Idlewood avenues.
At some point, Connors and Hayes were told someone was trying to steal their bikes, so they went outside, where Smith had pulled up the sign to release the bicycles.
"He was upset that the bikes were on his property," said Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Colette McEachin.
She added, "We respect the court's ruling."
Smith testified at the trial that he told Connors and Hayes not to step on his property but that they did so as they were demanding to know what he was doing with their bikes, according to Benjamin and McEachin.
Connors called 911, and after officers arrived, the bikes were returned to Connors and Hayes.
Smith swore out trespassing warrants against Connors and Hayes.
"What is offensive is his anger over such a petty thing as locking two bikes to a city sign and taking custody in a way that was certainly designed to alarm their owners," Benjamin said.
Efforts to reach Smith for comment on Thursday were unsuccessful.
Police spokesman James Mercante declined to discuss Smith's role in the incident, except to say, "The Richmond Police Department does not comment on personnel matters."
Benjamin said he advised his clients not to swear out warrants against Smith alleging larceny of the bikes.
"Too many people abuse the criminal justice system seeking vindication for petty or imagined wrongs or minor annoyances," he said.