It's apparently a crime to stand still on the streets of Manhattan:
…when Matthew Jones of Brooklyn lingered on the corner of 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue in the early morning of June 12, 2004, gabbing with friends as other pedestrians tried to get by, something unusual happened: He was arrested for it.
A police officer said Mr. Jones was impeding other pedestrians and charged him with disorderly conduct.
Mr. Jones is not taking the charges lying down (so to speak). After trying twice to get the charges dismissed, he has taken his case to the state's highest court, the Court of Appeals, which heard arguments here on Wednesday.
In the prosecution's view, it appears, the innocent do not dawdle. According to the original complaint against Mr. Jones, the officer "observed defendant along with a number of other individuals standing around" on a public sidewalk in June 2004. Mr. Jones was "not moving, and that as a result of defendants' behavior, numerous pedestrians in the area had to walk around defendants."
Surely there's more to this story, right? Ms. Prosecutor?
Paula-Rose Stark, a Manhattan assistant district attorney, argued that the facts in the complaint were sufficient for the charge of disorderly conduct. Mr. Jones's reckless intent, Ms. Stark said, was evident from the fact that his behavior was noticeable in the first place "amid the inevitable hustle and bustle of Times Square, the construction, the vehicular traffic."
Ah. So he was standing noticeably. Now that….still makes no sense at all. Fortunately for Jones, New York's highest court appears to believe he has a leg or two to stand on:
"Isn't that lawful conduct?" wondered Judge Robert S. Smith. Later he added, "Your conduct can't be illegal just because an officer noticed it."
His colleague Judge Eugene F. Pigott Jr. questioned what other violations might attract law enforcement attention.
"All I could think of was a bunch of lawyers from the New York City Bar Association standing around trying to figure out where to have lunch," Judge Pigott said. (The association has offices a block and a half from Times Square.)
Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye seemed likewise nonplused. "This is at 2 a.m.?" she asked, wondering how many pedestrians it would have been possible to inconvenience at that hour. "I guess I'm not in Times Square at 2 a.m. very often."
Good to know that New York taxpayers are paying the state's brightest legal minds to sort this important matter out.