The case against a man accused of drinking beer on his own stoop has been dismissed, but before you go cracking open a Pabst or a Brooklyn Lager in celebration, be warned — the case was dismissed on a technicality.
Yes, Kimber VanRy is no longer facing a $25 fine for the public drinking summons he received on Aug. 27 for gulping a Sierra Nevada on his front stoop, but Judge Eugene Schwartzwald dismissed the case on Tuesday morning only because it “took too long” to get the case to trial.
“I’m dismissing this on ‘speedy trial’ grounds,” said the judge, using shorthand to refer to plantiffs’ constitutional right to a prompt trial. “This has been going on too long.”
Though he did not reveal how he might have ruled on the merits of the case, Schwartzwald did tell VanRy’s lawyer, Tina Kansas, “You did a nice job on the motion.”
That motion conveyed the substance of VanRy’s challenge to the portion of the city’s open-container law that allows cops to write summonses for any drinking that is done in view of the public, even if the drinking itself is done on private property, such as a front stoop.
VanRy said he was drinking his Sierra Nevada on his Sterling Place front steps, far from the public sidewalk. His summons set off a wide debate over that most iconic of Brooklyn public spaces: the stoop.
VanRy hoped that winning the case on the merits would forever prevent cops from ticketing people for a quiet beer on their private steps, so Tuesday’s dismissal was a little unsatisfying.
“It feels a little hollow,” VanRy said. “This dismissal doesn’t allow us to drink on the stoop, which was the purpose of this case.”
It’s unclear why the case took “too long,” as Schwartzwald said. VanRy showed up for all his court appointments last fall and this winter, but the trials never took place, though reasons were never given.
Last week, the trial was scuttled when a judge took himself off the case because — in his words, not ours — The Brooklyn Paper’s coverage of the VanRy Affair has been “too good.”
“I read about the case in your paper,” said Jerome Kay, a Park Slope resident.
In the end, Brooklynites should not take VanRy’s “win” as evidence that stoop drinking will be officially condoned by the NYPD, the successful Sierra Nevada lover said.
“I’m not sure I’ll drink on my stoop,” he said.
©2009 Community News Group
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