City of Cleveland v. Walker, No.: 2017 CRB 012838

CourtCourt of Common Pleas of Ohio
Writing for the CourtJUDGE EMANUELLA GROVES
Citation92 N.E.3d 408
Parties CITY OF CLEVELAND, Plaintiff v. Beonte WALKER, Defendant
Docket NumberNo.: 2017 CRB 012838
Decision Date22 October 2017

92 N.E.3d 408

CITY OF CLEVELAND, Plaintiff
v.
Beonte WALKER, Defendant

No.: 2017 CRB 012838

Ohio Municipal Court, Cleveland.

Date: 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

JUDGE EMANUELLA GROVES

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

92 N.E.3d 409

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 must show that the Defendant evaded the payment of fare. The issue before this court is whether mere absence of a fare card constitutes an evasion of payment. To make this determination the court must examine the mens rea for the crime of evasion and the definition of "evade."

In considering the meaning of a statute, a court must ascertain and give effect to the legislature's intent in the statute's enactment.2 First, a court must look to the plain language of the statute to interpret its meaning.3 When the language is "clear and unambiguous," the court must apply the language consistently within the plain meaning of the statutory language.4 A legislative body is not required to define every word used in a law.5 Where any term is undefined, the court may look to its common, everyday meaning.6 Here, § 605.11(a) fails to define "evade." The common definition of "evade" as defined in

92 N.E.3d 410

Webster's Dictionary is, "to escape from by trickery or cleverness, to get around by trickery, to avoid doing or fulfilling, to elude or escape." Consequently, in order to find the Defendant guilty of fare evasion, the City of Cleveland must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant recklessly engaged in conduct which demonstrated an act of evasion in...

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