Criminal Justice

Man is arrested again over 'homeless' sign; will he be prosecuted?

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Arrested last year for panhandling after he allegedly displayed a “Merry Christmas homeless” sign near a public roadway, a 62-year-old North Dakota man was arrested again last month after a Bismarck police officer said he stood near a freeway off-ramp with a “homeless” sign.

However, Thomas Seymour was not prosecuted in at least two of three or more earlier Bismarck arrests for the misdemeanor offense, according to KMOT and an earlier Bismarck Tribune article.

After Seymour asked for a jury trial, assistant city attorney Paul Fraase said in a filing that a panhandling case against Seymour, based on a March 25, 2013 arrest, should be dismissed “because the defendant is pro se and this case should not be allowed to waste jurors’ time,” the newspaper reported. A city ordinance prohibits panhandling in a broad variety of settings, including intersections, roads and medians.

Seymour told a police officer before his latest arrest that he was not violating the ordinance because he wasn’t asking for money, simply accepting donations, the Bismarck Tribune reports.

A KUMV article says Seymour was also arrested earlier this year and was charged not only with panhandling but resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after he allegedly became combative with police. That case was dismissed, the Tribune says, but doesn’t explain why.

Discussing the then-draft panhandling ordinance in 2012, Deputy Police Chief Dan Donlin said panhandlers have constitutional rights that allow them to hold up signs such as “will work for food,’” but should not be allowed to create public safety issues, the Bismarck Tribune reported at the time. Hence, the ordinance was designed to address so-called aggressive panhandling at locations that could obstruct traffic or intimidate individuals.

Related coverage:

Bismarck Tribune: “Bismarck bans aggressive panhandling”

KQCD: “Police Arrest Deceptive Panhandler”

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