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Little League dad is convicted of trespassing

December 10, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

A Little League dad was convicted and fined $50 Thursday for trespassing at his son's baseball game in a city park.

Ricky A. Hockensmith, 46, said he would appeal the verdict handed down in Washington County District Court.

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The former National Little League umpire and manager was charged June 18 with violating a written league order to stay off the league's leased property in Staley Park at 726 Frederick St.

The defense presented Thursday by Greg Bannon, Hockensmith's attorney, was that Staley Park is now and was then public property owned by the City of Hagerstown, making the arrest improper.

Bannon said the trespassing statute under which Hockensmith was charged dealt with private property.

After hearing the testimony in the 90-minute trial, Judge R. Noel Spence ruled that a written lease agreement National Little League had with the city gave them the right to present Hockensmith with a letter on May 29 warning him not to return to the property.

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That letter, which Hockensmith acknowledged receiving, gave the league the right to order him to leave on June 18, and thus the subsequent arrest was legal, Spence ruled.

Describing the issue as "thorny," Spence thanked both Bannon and Deputy Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong for trying the matter patiently and on the single issue of the alleged trespassing.

"While this was being waged, the benefits to children were being lost in the squabble," Spence said. "But I'm not here to solve that problem."

Spence said he was convinced that Hockensmith did what he did on June 18 intending to be arrested. "He got what he asked for," Spence said.

Hockensmith, who didn't testify Thursday, said outside the courtroom that he didn't go on the property that day to get arrested but to watch his son practice for a game.

Four of Hockensmith's children and his wife, Sharon, attended the trial.

As the trial ended and all parties were leaving, Sharon Hockensmith directed a comment across the room toward Kelly Stebbins Cromer, former president of National Little League, who had testified.

Outside the courtroom, her husband said he was sorry about the effect the entire squabble has had on the National Little League children.

"Children should be able to look up to their leadership I hold that dear," Hockensmith said outside the courtroom, moments after his wife's outburst.

Hockensmith, of 9808 Wandering Lane, is employed by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

Contacted outside the courtroom, Cromer said she believed the judge made the right decision.

"You can't use the system to get yourself a platform," she said.

No longer president or a member of the National Little League board, Cromer said she is happy that her association with the league is over.

The league elected a new board and a new president earlier this fall.

Hockensmith said the board acted against him because he was handing out fliers to parents during games. The fliers explained changes to the league's constitution and urged people to contact Little League regional headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

Hockensmith said he felt attempts to ban him from games were designed to silence his efforts to reform the league.

In addition to his appeal to Washington County Circuit Court, Hockensmith said he also plans to pursue another legal avenue.

"I will also move into the federal arena on the discrimination issue," Hockensmith said, saying that he had a First Amendment right to distribute fliers.

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