City temporarily drops charges against man who mowed Central Park

SANDUSKY The John Hamilton saga is over. Sort of. The city prosecutor's office announ
May 24, 2010



The John Hamilton saga is over. Sort of.

The city prosecutor's office announced Friday afternoon that the city will temporarily drop charges against the man arrested last week when he refused to follow police orders to stop mowing overgrown grass in Central Park.

But the release from the prosecutor's office stated city commissioners and management will review all available materials, and "criminal charges may then be considered."

"The upkeep and care of all public areas by anyone other than designated city employees should be closely examined in a civil forum by those who legislate on behalf of the city in order to clarify policy and avoid any future misunderstandings," the statement read. "After that matter has been fully addressed by the commission and by city management, criminal charges may then be considered."

Hamilton, 48, was charged with persistent disorderly conduct and obstructing official business.

Authorities said Hamilton's mower was shredding trash and spewing grass onto the sidewalks. They also said liability issues were a concern.

In an interview Friday at his home on Sunset Drive, Hamilton expressed relief the ordeal was over.

"This has been the strangest week of my life," he said. "I just want to go to work on Monday and have a normal week."

After his arrest, Hamilton's story took on a life of its own.

Newspapers from across the country, and even some media outlets as far as Europe and New Zealand, picked up on his arrest.

In its statement Friday, the city maintained that Hamilton mowed the park only for attention. The release notes he asked for citation tickets after police officers initially asked him to stop.

"It is disingenuous of Mr. Hamilton to now state that this was simply an act of volunteerism," the release stated.

But Hamilton contends he initially just wanted to cut the grass, and only decided to protest after officers ordered him to stop.

He said he saw kids playing in the park earlier in the week, with "grass halfway up to their knees."

According to the police report, the grass was more than a foot high.

Since the arrest, Hamilton has received almost unanimous public support, and two lawyers even offered to take his case pro bono. One of those, attorney Rick Garand, ended up defending him.

City prosecutor Lynne Gast-King talked this week about how she was conflicted on whether or not to prosecute Hamilton.

"I'm obviously concerned about how the citizens of Sandusky feel and certainly respect their opinion," King said. "But I also have a great deal of respect for law enforcement officers and think their instructions need to be heeded, and there needs to be repercussions when they're not."

In an interview Friday, City Manager Matt Kline said the city could have handled it differently -- "hindsight is 20/20," he said -- but re-asserted residents must follow police orders.

He also called the dismissal of charges "excellent" news.

"I'm happy," Kline said. "Let's hope it puts this whole matter to rest."