Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Charges dropped for teen chalk artists

Doylestown Borough police reviewed case and decided chalk sketches of sea turtles and a whale had not caused damage to the street.

Charges dropped for teen chalk artists

Blog Image
Connor Logan sits at street corner where he and a friend spotted some chalk and drew figures of sea turtles and a whale, resultngh in tickets for criminal mischief. (Bill Reed/Staff)
Chalk artists Video: Chalk artists

Connor Logan’s schedule for next Wednesday was packed — go to court for drawing chalk figures on a street in Doylestown Borough, then head off to college for freshman year.

Now, all he’s got is a seven-hour drive to Penn State Erie.

Borough police withdrew their charges of criminal mischief against Logan, 18, of Doylestown Township, and a 17-year-old friend from the borough, after reviewing the case, Lt. Patrick Penecale said Friday.

The two young men were given tickets after an officer came across them drawing figures of sea turtles and a whale on North Clinton Avenue.

They were scheduled for an Aug. 22 hearing before District Justice Mark D. Douple, and faced fines of $100 or more if found guilty, police Chief James Donnelly said.

Instead, Logan found out Friday from this reporter that the charge had been dropped.

“That’s fantastic,” Logan said.

His only inkling was a text his chalk mate had sent: “I have a surprise for you.”

The two young men were sitting on a street corner, waiting for friends, when they spotted pieces of white chalk and started drawing the sea creatures in the road.

“The street light was on, and it was easier to see there” than in the adjacent parking lot, Logan explained.

“This is the first time I’ve done anything like that,” he said. “It was all a new experience.”

His only scrape with the law till then was a parking ticket, he said.

As Officer Bryan Pullar wrote the tickets, another officer drove up and took photos of the chalk figures, Logan said.

With ticket in hand, Logan was free to go. But his friend was taken to the police station because he is a minor, Logan said. He went along and waited for his friend’s mother to pick up the 17 year old.

Police were not trying to send a message by ticketing the teenagers, the chief said at the time. The young men were not connected to vandals who have marked up borough buildings with graffiti, some obscene, “mostly with spray paint, but some with chalk,” he said.

The charges attracted heavy media coverage, with the borough bearing the brunt of jokes and criticism.

“I got more than 100 Facebook messages,” Logan said. “They expressed public outrage, in general.

“They told me to fight the system.”

When Penecale reviewed the case, he determined “it was not the appropriate charge for the offense.”

The law “talks about defacement,” he said. “There has to be some sort of discernible damage.”

With the chalk figures long since washed away by rain, the charges were withdrawn.

Logan originally planned to plead guilty, but he changed his mind after doing some research and deciding he was not guilty of criminal mischief.

Criminal mischief citations are not like traffic tickets, said Janet F. Ginzberg, a lawyer with Community Legal Services in Center City.

“They are summary convictions, that will appear, at least on the 18-year old’s criminal record, when anyone, like a prospective employer, checks,” she wrote in an email.

Employers are prohibited from considering summary convictions, “but they do so anyway,” Ginzburg said.

The conviction can be wiped off the records after five years, when there are no other arrests.

Logan said his parents were “bewildered” by the ticket and “and eventually got a laugh out of it.” His father, a forensic toxicologist who testifies in trials as an expert witness, “knows about courtrooms” and would have accompanied him to his hearing.

The Central Bucks High School West graduate is still amazed at his 15 minutes of fame.

“I walk into the Wawa, and people say, ‘Hey, you’re that chalk guy,’” Logan said. “Everyone thought it was a joke, or that it sucked.”

About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

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