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Little League dad's charge dismissed

February 24, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Prosecutors Thursday dismissed a trespassing charge against a man arrested when he went to a Hagerstown park to watch his son play in a Little League game.

"It's a big relief for me and my family. The stress has been incredible," former National Little League umpire and team manager Ricky A. Hockensmith, 47, said hours after his trespassing conviction was dismissed in Washington County Circuit Court.

"I feel vindicated by this action," said Hockensmith, a risk-management official with the Maryland Department of Public Safety.

Hockensmith was arrested in June 1999 when he defied the local National Little League's order barring him from games on property leased from the City of Hagerstown in Staley Park on Frederick Street.

League directors had revoked Hockensmith's membership the previous year after he refused to let his team finish a game due to his dispute with another manager.

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Hockensmith contended the league banished him to silence his efforts to reform the league. His accusations of rule violations, including illegal indoor practice in the off-season, prompted Little League officials in Williamsport, Pa., to place the local organization's charter on hold last year.

That led to the election last fall of a new local board, which reinstated Hockensmith.

Hockensmith, who wasn't present in court Thursday morning, was convicted Dec. 9 by Washington County District Judge Noel Spence and fined $50 for trespassing on the ballfield at his son's baseball game.

Hockensmith's appeal to Circuit Court was to have been heard Thursday, but prosecutors dropped the charges.

Advised by the new National Little League officers that Hockensmith had been reinstated last November, Washington County State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr. said, "The state doesn't see any reason to pursue prosecution of this matter."

Circuit Judge Donald Beachley granted the dismissal.

John Phillips, new president of National Little League, said Thursday that Hockensmith "now has all rights and privileges of any Little League parent."

Hockensmith and his attorney, Greg Bannon, plan to meet Monday to map out the next phase of Hockensmith's quarrel with former officials of the league.

On Dec. 13, Bannon confirmed he filed a letter of intent with the City of Hagerstown that a civil lawsuit could be forthcoming.

With the criminal charges dismissed, Hockensmith said he is ready to move ahead with the civil action to hold "all parties accountable who put me through this."

The defense presented in December by Bannon is that Staley Park is public property owned by the City of Hagerstown, making the arrest improper.

After hearing the testimony in December, Spence ruled that a written lease agreement that 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.

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.

Hockensmith said the former 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., he said.

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

Some board members at the time denied that was the case, and said Hockensmith was spreading false information and undermining the board.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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