Thursday, February 6, 1997
Roll the cameras
Parking-meter grandma's trial begins

The Cincinnati Enquirer

THE GRANDMA: Sylvia Stayton watches police officer Ed Johnson testify. At left is Linda Kenkel, legal assistant to defense attorney David Scacchetti.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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The trial of Sylvia Stayton, the so-called Parking Meter Grandmother, got under way Wednesday with both sides asserting that the case was not about a parking meter.

Prosecutors say Mrs. Stayton would not follow Officer Edward Johnson's orders not to put coins in the expired meters by a stranger's car, and that kept the officer from doing his job.

But defense attorney David Scacchetti suggested to a jury that Officer Johnson got angry at Mrs. Stayton, overreacted and injured the 63-year-old woman as he handcuffed her.

This case is not about a parking meter,'' Mr. Scacchetti said. ''It's about right and wrong.''

Mrs. Stayton, of Clifton, was arrested Oct. 24 in the 2700 block of Vine Street, the bustling Short Vine business strip in Corryville.

She was charged with obstructing official business and disorderly conduct, accused of ignoring Officer Johnson's warning that she was committing the offense of ''re-metering,'' then making a scene as she was arrested and refusing to provide personal information.

City ordinance prohibits putting coins in a meter that has already been paid to the maximum, adding time beyond the posted parking limit. Mrs. Stayton was warned about re-metering but not charged.

THE OFFICER: Ed Johnson, the arresting officer, reads the parking meter ordinance as attorneys hold a sidebar with Municipal Court Judge John A. West.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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The story was picked up by the national media, and Mrs. Stayton has appeared on national television programs since her arrest.

Assistant City Attorney Lisa Allen told eight jurors in Hamilton County Municipal Court that the media ''hoo-ha'' had obscured the central issue: Mrs. Stayton kept Officer Johnson from doing his job.

''What purpose could there have been, other than to prevent Officer Ed Johnson from issuing that (parking) citation?'' she asked.

Wednesday, the hoo-ha continued - both ABC network news and Court TV were in town for the trial. Cameras captured a courtroom packed with supporters, from Mrs. Stayton's family to backers calling themselves ''Patriots,'' who guide their actions by the Bible and the U.S. Constitution.

''The laws are being subverted against the people,'' said John Broomall, who said he knew Mrs. Stayton from meetings of a patriot study group in Elmwood Place.

''If someone can get arrested for putting money in a parking meter, what will they be arrested for next?'' asked Becky Pickens, Mrs. Stayton's daughter.

Officer Johnson testified that Mrs. Stayton didn't physically prevent him from writing tickets, but her actions left him with no choice but to arrest her instead. ''There are certain people who believe they're above the law,'' he said.

Mrs. Stayton shook her head during the officer's testimony. ''Let's put it this way; I'm not sure I was there the same day he was there,'' she said after court.

The case continues today before Judge John Andrew West, with Mrs. Stayton expected to testify.