YOUNGSTOWN Man pleads in case tied to dance
Had the vice cops not tracked the court case themselves, they wouldn't have appeared in court because they received no subpoenas.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The Rev. Charles Ellis didn't have to take responsibility for a "Freak-Me Friday" public dance that took place without a permit, his lawyer says.
"They charged the wrong guy," Atty. Joseph F. Rafidi said. "He did not rent that hall."
Nevertheless, to settle the matter, the Ellis pleaded no contest Wednesday afternoon in municipal court to the minor misdemeanor charge, Rafidi said.
A visiting magistrate fined him $40.
Rafidi said he had been prepared to show in court that the rental contract for the event in late May at Buckeye Elks Lodge 73, 421 North Avenue, was not with Ellis.
Rafidi said his client, a former 2nd Ward councilman, didn't have to take responsibility for the dance's not having a permit but did.
"If he wasn't the man in charge, why did he say he was? If you weren't in charge, why would say you were?" said Lt. William Powell, vice squad commander. "When asked, he voluntarily said he was in charge -- that's why he got the ticket. The officers asked if he had a dance permit and he said he didn't."
Didn't get subpoenas: Had Patrolmen Paul Brown and Michael Brindisi not kept track on their own of when Ellis was due in court, they would have missed Wednesday's hearing, Powell said. The officers did not receive a subpoena before court, he said.
Powell said that when officers miss court dates because they fail to receive subpoenas it's not unusual to see the case dismissed.
Complaints about fliers: The vice squad had received complaints about a sexually explicit flier that appeared on utility poles advertising the "Freak-Me Friday" dance.
The flier for the downtown dance announced "huge cash prizes for XXX-Contest Winners" and "live performances" and featured a bare-chested man and two scantily clad women, one of whom is seen touching herself in a sexually explicit manner.
When Brown and Brindisi asked the bartender at the event to see the dance permit, they were directed to a back room. They found no permit but did see five men playing cards and charged them with public gaming.
Police cited Ellis after consulting with the city prosecutor's office.
No-show in court: Ellis failed to appear when scheduled to appear in municipal court in June, and a warrant was issued. He later turned himself in, and the warrant was withdrawn.
Municipal Judge Robert P. Milich arraigned Ellis on June 18, released him on his own recognizance and assigned the case to a magistrate because minor misdemeanors carry no jail time. Magistrates cannot impose jail sentences.
Ellis served on council from 1996 to 1999 and then, citing personal reasons, did not run for re-election.