The long-awaited trial of a man accused of drinking beer on his own stoop will have to wait a few more days, thanks to the stunning recusal of a judge who took himself off the case on Monday because — his words, not ours — my coverage of the trial of the century has been “too good.”
“I read about the case in your paper,” Judge Jerome Kay said, minutes after he stunned a packed Downtown Brooklyn courtroom and made the extremely rare decision to take himself off the summons case against Prospect Heights resident Kimber VanRy, the man who was hit with a violation over the summer for drinking a Sierra Nevada beer on his Sterling Place stoop.
Judge Kay, who lives in Park Slope, said he not only followed the coverage in The Brooklyn Angle, but later walked past VanRy’s building.
“I know that building, I know that stoop, so remaining on the case would give the appearance that I could not be fair, pro or con,” the judge said.
And make no mistake — Kay has a strong opinion on the case that has all of Brooklyn stoop-lovers riveted.
“I do have an opinion — but I’m not going to share it with you!” the judge said.
It’s no wonder Kay has taken sides in this climactic battle to save the sanctity of Brooklyn’s iconic front stoop. The central issues in the case are not in dispute: On Aug. 27, after Sen. Joe Biden accepted the vice-presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, VanRy went out onto his stoop with a beer and a Blackberry.
Silently sending out e-mails and relishing a good night for the Democrats, he sipped the Sierra Nevada on his front step a few feet from the sidewalk.
A squad car rolled up and the driver motioned VanRy over (his partner never looked up from the newspaper). Before he really knew what was happening, he’d been hit with the open container summons. The officer cited city law which says that any activity that can be seen from the street, even if it is on private property, is de facto public.
VanRy, a sales manager for a stock video footage company, could’ve paid the $25 summons, but he vowed to fight, citing a version of a man’s home being his castle.
No matter which side you’re on, the case has created quite a stir. The law-and-order purists say that the cop was right to issue the summons because VanRy’s drinking was, indeed, in public. On the other side is everyone else — a population that believes that a person’s stoop should be inviolate and that the NYPD should not be trying to public-ize our private space.
And another point: if drinking beer on one’s private stoop is actually an act of public lawlessness, what about if someone like me (but an even worse singer) pulled out a guitar and sang an off-key version of “Lay, Lady, Lay”? Wouldn’t that be far more annoying to neighbors, and, therefore, more worthy of a summons than Kimber VanRy’s silent stoop beer?
For these reasons, VanRy fights on. Despite four court appearances and four delays, he says he’ll be on hand next Tuesday when the case is finally heard.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s an important issue, so I will be back,” he said.
Remember, folks, he is fighting for us all.
UPDATED AT 11 PM ON FEB. 9: Story was updated to include more detail about city law.