Ch­ester­town man fined for steal­ing Trump signs

Record Observer - - News - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

CEN­TRE­VILLE — A Mary­land Dis­trict Court judge fined a Ch­ester­town man $250 plus court costs for steal­ing Trump signs from the lawn of a pri­vate prop­erty owner.

The ac­cused ad­mited to tak­ing the signs, but put up a de­fense dur­ing his trial and called the signs “cam­paign lit­ter.”

Ed­ward New­comen of Lyons Lane was charged with theft un­der $100 for steal­ing the cam­paign signs and his trial was held on Thurs­day, Sept. 22, be­fore Judge Frank M. Kra­tovil Jr.

Af­ter hear­ing tes­ti­mony on both sides, the judge dis­cussed New­comen’s guilt, but ruled pro­ba­tion be­fore judg­ment, not­ing that New­comen had no crim­i­nal record and no jail­able traf­fic of­fense.

Ac­cord­ing to the Queen Anne’s County State’s At­tor­ney Lance Richard­son, the pro­ba­tion be­fore judge­ment means New­comen com­mit­ted the act, but it strikes out the guilty find­ing so he doesn’t have a crim­i­nal record for it. There is no guilty con­vic­tion.

The judge fined New­comen $500 with $250 sus­pended, but, with court costs, he was as­sessed $300, which he paid im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the judge’s de­ci­sion. The judge also or­dered New­comen to have 18 months un­su­per­vised pro­ba­tion, obey all laws, and have no con­tact with the prop­erty owner or be near the prop­erty where the signs were stolen.

The judge told New­comen that he can’t ap­peal the court’s de­ci­sion if he ac­cepts the deal. New­comen ac­cepted the con­di­tion.

If New­comen vi­o­lates the pro­ba­tion over the 18-month time frame, he’s sub­ject to up to 90 days in jail and the re­main­ing $250 of the fine that the judge sus­pended, Richard­son said.

Richard­son pros­e­cuted the case and in court re­ferred to New­comen as a “lik­able gen­tle­men,” but stressed that theft can’t be tol­er­ated.

New­comen chose to not have a lawyer de­fend him and, in­stead, rep­re­sented him­self. He took the stand in his own de­fense. It was a trial by judge. No jur y.

New­comen ad­mit­ted to tak­ing three Trump cam­paign signs from Samuel Owings’ prop­erty on Pond Lane, Ch­ester­town, on June 30. The prop­erty where the signs were taken is in Queen Anne’s County, mean­ing the Dis­trict Court in Queen Anne’s County is re­quired to hear the case.

In court, New­comen ar­gued that the cam­paign signs weren’t legally placed and he con­sid­ered them “cam­paign lit­ter” and tak­ing them was a “prank.”

New­comen quoted the Queen Anne’s County By­laws, which says a po­lit­i­cal sign may not be erected more than 70 days prior to the elec­tion in which it per­tains. That would put the date al­lowed for the po­lit­i­cal signs in Au­gust, New­comen said. But he was re­minded in court that there was also a pri­mary. New­comen said, af­ter the trial, that the pri­mary was in April, and the signs should have been taken down af­ter ward.

In court tes­ti­mony, New­comen also cited the Na­tional Elec­tri­cal Safety Code that says it’s an of­fense to at­tach any­thing on a sup­port struc­ture with­out the con­cur­rence of the owner. Owings had put a game cam­era on a util­ity pole.

The judge ruled New­comen’s ar­gu­ments ir­rel­e­vant and in­ad­mis­si­ble be­cause they weren’t the ques­tion be­fore the court.

New­comen said he took the signs as a “prank.” He said he planned on putting the signs on the lawn of a neigh­bor who was a Clin­ton sup­porter.

New­comen, who calls him­self “a po­lit­i­cal athe­ist,” made state­ments af­ter the trial. When asked about the judge’s de­ci­sion, New­comen claimed the pros­e­cu­tion was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

“Look at the time they spent to pros­e­cute me. It’s po­lit­i­cal. It’s clearly po­lit­i­cal,” he said.

Owings of­fered New­comen a deal to avoid go­ing to trial, ac­cord­ing to both sides. Be­fore the trial, Owings said he ear­lier of­fered to drop the charges if New­comen would wear a Trump T-shirt and wave Trump signs on a street corner. New­comen con­firmed the deal was of­fered, but he in­stead pro­ceeded to trial.

Owings said he mounted the cam­era on the pole af­ter his po­lit­i­cal signs kept dis­ap­pear­ing from his prop­erty. When the signs first started dis­ap­pear­ing, he talked to the sher­iff’s of­fice who told him the po­lice needed proof. Owings then put up the cam­era on the util­ity pole and the cam­era took pic­tures of peo­ple tak­ing the signs. The sher­iff’s of­fice posted on Face­book pic­tures of the peo­ple. Po­lice re­ceived a tip that one per­son was New­comen.

Ac­cord­ing to the state­ment of charges filed in court, a sher­iff’s deputy con­fronted New­comen at his house and he con­fessed to steal­ing the signs and apol­o­gized. He gave the signs back to the deputy who turn them back over to Owings.

Owings said he didn’t know New­comen be­fore the in­ci­dent, but rec­og­nized him in a let­ter to the ed­i­tor in a lo­cal news­pa­per. Owings in his tes­ti­mony said other peo­ple were also pho­tographed tak­ing the signs.

SHER­IFF’S OF­FICE PHOTO

A cam­era on a util­ity pole caught Ed­ward New­comen of Ch­ester­town steal­ing Trump signs in June from a prop­erty on Pond Lane.

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