By the end of October, the relaxing, calm waters of Nantasket Beach had beckoned me back. Back to the smooth, clear sand where footprints by the jetty get washed up with the changing of each tide, back to the extended families and romantic couples taking long, peaceful strolls by the water’s edge.
Like most days, there’s a steady breeze, a prelude to the determined clan of surfers donned in sooty suits, catching a swell amidst a flock of seagulls keeping sight. The brisk ocean breeze fills my lungs, and as I warmly detox, I contemplate whether I should take the momentous plunge. Without much hindrances, I take a brave step and am quickly rewarded by the wonderful sensation of energy-boosting spray.
Surprisingly, the water in Hull in late October really isn’t too nippy for a dip. Yes, cold water can seize you and place you in immediate shock killing you silently but quickly. It could make your limbs become big boulders. You will panic as you sweep your arms frantically, momentarily stunned by the cold water shock. As you sink, you will aspirate water, panic, and sadly never surface again.
But as long as you gradually ease in, splashing water on yourself as you acclimate to the frigid domain it can be fairly tolerated. First shallow to knee deep, then to your private parts, and then let the roaring ripple do the rest. Hopefully, the ambient air temp remains moderate because you’ll probably be shaking like a leaf in a noreaster once you emerge.
Nantasket Beach and all parts north are known to have an extreme range of tide. Low tide is so expansive, that you can go for a walk or run and not meet anyone within earshot. But at high tide, the roaring surf greets the seawall advancing within several yards of bustling Beach Ave.
There’s something about basking near blue water that bestows a tranquil feeling deep inside. That’s probably why I’ve been riding on top of the world, spending my nights slumbering restfully in my cab. The roaring surf stirring my eardrums, its soothing waves rocking me to sleep with not a worry in this world save for my slated court date.
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Big Cherry in Nantucket Beach
* * *
I was definitely glad my trial would be held before the mind numbering cold season makes its dreaded appearance. Subsiding my 450-mile outing in my semi truck was exorbitantly expensive, and to the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, I made my obligatory homage to the mighty Ben Franklin.
I left Big Cherry bold and majestic parked by the jetty and rode my street bike to the Hingham District Court a striking mile and a half on George Washington Blvd.
When I made my harrowing appearance, I was shocked to see the two figures that were the bane of my existence all these months. After the initial revelation, I rejoiced at the fact that my case would not have to be rescheduled during the hard days of winter. Finally, after three long months and with many salutations the clerk called my name.
Trial matter: Commonwealth versus Chito Peppler
“Good afternoon, Your Honor. Margot Mckenzie for the Commonwealth. Judge, the Commonwealth will be calling two witnesses and would agree to sequestration of the witnesses”
The judge glared, eyes squinting behind wire-framed glasses.
“I should discuss with you the fact that you have chosen to waive counsel. You could retain counsel. People who choose to represent themselves are at often times viewed as a disadvantage because they may not know the rules of evidence and court proceedings. Do you want to hire your own lawyer or do you want to represent yourself.?”
I returned his gaze hiding my distress behind my forged smirk and upturned lips.
But then I remembered all the times I languished pro se during the dozens of heated Landlord Tenant cases in liberal-minded DC. I’m rugged and weathered, taken a few, and got back up, and I would surely soldier on.
The state subpoenaed two witnesses: Ms. Sneed, the manager at Marylou’s, and Mr. Gilead, the Rockland police officer.
Ms. Sneed approached the stand, primed and poised.
“How long have you been working at Marylou’s?”
“I’ve been with the company for four years, but only been managing that store for four months.”
“Do you recognize the defendant standing before you?”
“Yes, he was the gentleman that came into the store that morning in July.”
“And the one you called the police on?”
“Yes, I’ll never forget his face.”
“So a gentleman had come in. He bought a coffee and then proceeded to a counter where customers can sit down. And he started setting up a computer. He wasn’t really sitting down. He was walking around. His behavior made us uncomfortable. The employee I was working with had informed me that he had already been in there once and took pictures of the girls. So I called my boss and said, you know, is it okay if I call the police, and they said, yeah, that’s fine. So I called the police because he just — we got a very eerie feeling about him being there,” Ms. Sneed testified.
“What did he do that made you feel uncomfortable?” The Prosecutor asked.
“When he first like set up the computer. People don’t do that. They don’t come in and sit. They usually just get their coffee and leave, so that was a red flag at first. And then when he didn’t sit down, he just kept walking 19 around the store. I’m like okay, weird. If you’re going to use your computer, you usually sit at it.“
Next was the cross-examination. I was looking forward to asking Ms. Sneed questions and it appeared she did not expect me to be questioning her.
“If I made you feel uncomfortable, why didn’t you bother to talk to me and ask me what I was doing. Why escalate the situation and call the police?”
“Because we’ve called the police on you previously on July 3rd.”
“That’s not true. The police never came on July 3rd. Another manager asked me to leave, and I left peacefully. Do you have any evidence otherwise?”
“I was not there, no. But I was informed because it is my store.”
“Your job as the manager is to ask questions, listen to the other party, understand their purpose and to communicate your concerns. Not to call the police on a paying customer who hasn’t broken the law just because you feel uncomfortable with him.”
So either the corporate manager lied to her, or she lied to dispatch that they had previously called 911, or both. What would be the argument for calling 911? You only do that if someone’s safety, health or property is in danger. And you typically try to diffuse the situation before calling the police.
“And what was wrong with setting up a computer?”
“People don’t do that in my store.”
“Have you ever been to Starbucks?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Well, I’m really surprised since you’re the manager of your shop. Cuz there are several in Plymouth County and tons in the Boston area. And this is exactly the thing that many people do when they visit Starbucks.”
She looked at me puzzled, a thousand-yard stare to the beaches of the Nantasket peninsular into the luring Massachusetts Bay.
“So was it really that you were uncomfortable with me on my laptop, or you were just uncomfortable with me patronizing your coffee shop?
I could press more, but I had to rein myself in. I felt that I had clearly made my point. It was now time to cross-examine Officer Gillette.
The brawny, bald officer looked drained and tired as if he had just lingered through a graveyard shift.
“Officer, I appreciate you coming in. I know you just came off a 12-hour shift,” the Judge stated.
“So on July 3rd, when you entered Marylou’s what did you see?”
“We saw you sitting down eating, and we asked to see your ID.”
“I gave you my name but did not have to show you my ID. Massachusetts is not a Stop and ID state, and since I hadn’t done anything wrong, there was not a need to do so correctly?”
“Well this is the second time we were called on you.”
“I beg to differ, Officer. There was no previous call on July 3. Now, why did you and your two fellow officers insist on issuing me a no trespass order when none was warranted?
“That was the wishes of the business, Marylou’s”
“There was no need to issue such an order. I had not done anything wrong. And I had asked to leave. And since I don’t live in Massachusetts, I was not coming back to Rockland ever again so why waste your time and a piece of paper? In fact, the manager of the store could have issued it without police intervention. When I read the no trespass order, it was actually signed by Ms. Sneed, not the Rockland Police. Can’t the business issue the order exclusively?”
“Yes, that’s correct. We wanted to help out because we support our local businesses and we were called a couple of weeks before.”
“But there was no previous call. This was the first time the police were ever called on the defendant. You’re going with what the manager said, and there’s no proof of this. Why didn’t you guys just let me leave the premises? If you were insistent on seeing my ID, you could have followed me to my rig. At which point, I would be required to show you my CDL as a truck driver.”
The officer was left in stunned silence. I could tell he didn’t want to be here in the first place. Already he was regretting arresting and booking me.
After the cross-examination I made my final statement:
When a patron visits a sit-down restaurant, there’s an expectation that he would be allowed to eat his or her meal in peace. The last thing he/she expects is for the manager to call 911 to have him/her removed and to issue a No Trespass Order so he/she never returns again.
On July 12, 2019, at the Marylou’s Coffeeshop in Rockland, MA., this is exactly what happened. The customer in this case did not break the law or do anything wrong. The manager, however, felt “uncomfortable” with the customer for no reason other than her personal prejudice.
There is also no policy against taking pictures in Marylou’s. I received permission from the staff to take a couple of pictures during my first visit on July 3rd which they reviewed and gave consent to post on Google. I also showed the pictures to a corporate manager (who happened to be present) and provided my contact information in case they needed a copy or wanted me to delete it. I mentioned that I was impressed with the ambience and decor and thought the pictures presented them positively. The manager provided consent to post the pictures but did ask me politely to leave. She did not provide a reason, nor did she ask me never to return again. I was rather confused by her request, but I did not get the impression that I could not come back. That’s why on July 12th, after returning the trailer to Casey’s Movers, I walked across the street to eat breakfast. The only thing on my mind was my hunger and desire for some caffeine.
Upon entering, I ordered breakfast, and coffee, then mentioned to the manager that I had visited a week prior and showed her the pictures I took on my phone. The manager didn’t comment on the photos but nodded her head in acknowledgment. Then I took my laptop out and went online to check on some loads for my return trip to Washington, DC.
The manager’s goal was to get me kicked out even if that meant calling the police which could easily escalate into criminal charges and potential injury. She claimed that no customers use their laptops inside Marylou’s and customers grab their coffee and leave. Even if she has never been to a Starbucks (which she claims to be the case), she has to know that patrons at thousands of coffee shops throughout America, open up their laptops to go online and check their email – that’s not unusual and should not be the reason for alarm. And if sitting down and using laptops is not ordinarily allowed, it was incumbent on her to communicate this to me. I am a truck driver from out of town, so she should understand my ignorance of this unspoken rule. But the manager failed to communicate to me which is her responsibility because she clearly did not even want to talk to me. Instead, she rushed to call the police who showed up within minutes.
When the officers arrived, I was so focused on my meal that at first, I did not notice them. I had not even eaten half my sandwich when they rudely interrupted me. I was surprised and shocked by the type of questions they asked and reassured them that I had not done anything wrong. Instead, the police made it seem like taking pictures was prohibited.
I explained to the officers, that no one ever told me I couldn’t come back. And if I’m not allowed here, why did the manager not inform me. They had no problem with taking my money and then rushed to call the police. I had not committed a crime, or even broken any company rules. I had told the officers my name, showed them the pictures I had taken the week before, told them that I was just eating and then I politely asked to leave.
The officers explained that in order to write the No Trespass Order, I had to provide an ID card. I always keep my Drivers License in the truck and I did not know that I had my military ID with me. Nevertheless, I am familiar with the Massachusetts Stop and ID law which states that a person is not required to provide an ID. I gave the officers my name. My name is also on the picture that I took which I showed to the officers and Marylou’s has my business card. What the officers wanted to do was see whether I had an outstanding warrant or even to see whether I was undocumented, so I told the officers I did not have to provide an ID.
After the prosecutor made their final statement, the Court was ready to make its ruling.
In order to prove the defendant guilty of this offense, the Commonwealth must prove three things beyond a reasonable doubt:
First, the defendant engaged in conduct that most people would find to be unreasonably disruptive, such as (making loud and disturbing noise) (tumultuous or offensive conduct) (hurling objects in a populated area) (threatening, quarreling, fighting, or challenging others to fight) (uttering personal insults that amount to fighting words, that is, are so offensive that they are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction); Second: That the defendant’s actions were done intentionally, and not by accident or mistake; and Third: That the defendant did in fact annoy or disturb at least one person.
I could imagine a graphic picture of a looter destroying a storefront during a riot protesting against police brutality. Something you would see at a riot after Trump was inaugurated.
To amount to disturbing the peace, the defendant’s acts must have been voluntary, unnecessary, and contrary to normal standards of conduct. You should consider all the circumstances, including such important Instruction. Factors such as time and location, in determining whether the defendant disturbed the tranquility of at least one person in that area, or interfered with at least one person’s normal activity.
So the court did not find you had disturbed the peace. You are free to go.
“Thank you, your Honor!” I clenched my fist in victory – I was so glad I stuck it out and fought the charge. Now I was ready to loosen up my tie, hit the beach, and celebrate my first criminal case victory, pro se.
The first person I called as soon as I stepped out of the courtroom was my Mom, next was Peggy.
“I finally did it. I made my case and the Judge found me not guilty!”
“Hurray!” Peggy exclaimed. “You showed the court today, that Marylou’s needs to be more inclusive of other people, not just white, attractive, young women.”
“Right on. And thanks for hearing me out and for your shrewd advice.”
“My pleasure, now drive home safe and say Hi to your Mom.”
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The author after his trial in Hingham District Court, Mass
Now it was time to go for another run and swim and then visit the Beach Front Pub for some juicy Lobster Rolls and fried whole belly clams. Gail’s kitchen served the best, and I certainly would be overindulging tonight. I had already wasted a lot of time, resources, and energy returning to court twice. Hopefully, there were no more drama and setbacks ahead. And I could book another load for the long haul.