92 N.E.3d 408 (Ohio Mun. 2017), 2017 CRB 012838, City of Cleveland v. Walker

Docket Nº:2017 CRB 012838
Citation:92 N.E.3d 408
Opinion Judge:EMANUELLA GROVES, JUDGE.
Party Name:CITY OF CLEVELAND, Plaintiff v. Beonte WALKER, Defendant
Attorney:Attorney Kimberly Barnett Mills, Chief Police Prosecutor, through Jennifer Kinsley, Assistant Police Prosecutor, for Plaintiff and Defendant Beonte Walker, pro se.
Case Date:October 22, 2017
Court:Municipal Court of Ohio
 
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Page 408

92 N.E.3d 408 (Ohio Mun. 2017)

CITY OF CLEVELAND, Plaintiff

v.

Beonte WALKER, Defendant

No. 2017 CRB 012838

Cleveland Municipal Court, Ohio

October 22, 2017

         Attorney Kimberly Barnett Mills, Chief Police Prosecutor, through Jennifer Kinsley, Assistant Police Prosecutor, for Plaintiff and Defendant Beonte Walker, pro se.

          JUDGMENT ENTRY

          EMANUELLA GROVES, JUDGE.

          Facts

         On June 13, 2017, Mr. Beonte Walker (" Defendant" ) was cited for fare evasion on the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (" RTA" ) Red Line rapid/transit train (" Red Line" ) in violation of C.C.O. § 605.11 Misconduct Involving a Public Transportation System (" fare evasion" ), which states in pertinent part, " No person shall evade the payment of the known fares of a public transportation system." Defendant testified that he boarded the Red Line with the intention of paying his fare at Tower City upon exiting the train. The RTA police officer testified that he observed Defendant attempt to walk through the turnstile at the Tower City Center rotunda and that Defendant was unable to exit because he did not possess a fare card. The Defendant testified he voluntarily approached the officer to inquire about how to pay the fare because he did not see a " payable vendor machine." 1 He testified that he told the officer that he

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had funds readily available to pay his fare. The officer agreed that Defendant did question whether he could pay at Tower City.

          Defendant indicated that he had not ridden the Red Line in several years and that, in his past experiences with riding the Red Line, he had been allowed to pay his fare at a payable vendor machine when he detrained. On cross-examination, Defendant asked the officer why RTA police did not stop passengers on the Blue and Green lines, as they do on the Red Line. In reply, the officer testified that the HealthLine and the Red Line routes are proof-of-payment lines where payment is required upon entry. Consequently, all RTA routes do not have the same method of payment, nor the same manner of enforcement by RTA police.

          The officer explained to the Court that passengers on the Red Line must have a valid fare card to swipe through the turnstile in order to exit the rotunda. Once a valid fare card is swiped at the turnstile, the turnstile is activated and allows the passenger to exit. Passengers exiting the Red Line, via the Tower City rotunda, do not have a fare payment method available. Therefore, they must purchase their fare cards upon embarking the train.

          In its closing argument, the City of Cleveland (" City" ) argued that Defendant’s failure to produce a valid fare card is sufficient evidence to find Defendant guilty of evasion because: 1) he was located in a fare-paid zone after exiting the Red Line without a valid fare card, 2) signage posted on the proof of payment line required payment upon entry, and 3) based on the ordinary definition of the term " evasion," exiting the Red Line without fare (i.e. a fare card) constitutes avoidance of payment.

          Findings and Conclusion of Law

          In order to find the Defendant guilty of fare evasion, the evidence...

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