Denver Drops Effort To Criminally Prosecute Pickleball Enthusiast Who Made Small 'X's on City-Owned Gym Floor
The city is insisting that 71-year-old Arslan Guney pay nearly $5,000 to cover the alleged costs of restoring the gym floor.
Former engineer and current pickleball enthusiast Arslan Guney will not face criminal prosecution for making some marks on a public gym floor, according to a deal hashed out between him and the city of Denver. But he will have to pay a hefty $5,000 fee and write a letter of apology to city staff.
"It's been almost two months. It's been very stressful, for my family, for me. It's amazing that we are closing this thing positively," Guney told Reason today following the brokering of his deal with the city.
Guney was arrested for felony criminal mischief in late March for allegedly defacing a multipurpose indoor court at Denver's Central Park gym owned and managed by the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation.
In fact, he had used a sharpie borrowed from Parks Department staff to draw a series of small squares around pre-existing "x"s on the court floor to better mark off a course for pickleball—a kind of oversized table tennis game similar to tennis or badminton.
At the time, Guney didn't think he was doing anything wrong. The so-called "mayor of pickleball" had been in discussions with Parks Department staff about expanding the number of hours the Central Park gym would be open for pickleball play. The department had even asked the 71-year-old to make a diagram that more clearly established where temporary, felt pickleball markers should go on the floor.
Soon after he made those markings on the gym floor to help with course setup, he received an email from Parks Department staff saying that he was barred from department-run facilities because of his supposed vandalism.
Next, he received a phone call from a Denver police detective telling him that the Parks Department had filed a criminal complaint against him and claimed that he'd caused over $10,000 in damages with his small markings.
Despite getting the pro bono help of Denver attorney Hollynd Hoskins to negotiate on his behalf, the Parks Department wouldn't budge on the criminal charges they'd requested. Guney eventually turned himself into the police. He spent 10 hours in jail and was released after being given a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.
The deal he worked out the city today means he won't be criminally prosecuted. He will nevertheless have to cover half the alleged costs of the damage he's done to the gym floor, which amounts to $4,672. Guney has started a GoFundMe to cover the fine, with any additional proceeds going to support his favorite sport.
"This was clearly a pickleball shakedown," says Hoskins, his attorney. She says that estimates she obtained show the gym floor could be restored at a nominal cost well below the city's figures.
Nevertheless, Guney says he's mostly just happy to have the whole ordeal behind him. Shortly after reaching his deal with the city, he was off to play more pickleball.