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WARREN Charge against Santa Claus dismissed



Published: Tue, July 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The ruling made Santa very jolly indeed, according to his attorney.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- It may be Christmas in July for Santa Claus.

Judge Thomas Gysegem of municipal court Monday dismissed a misdemeanor charge of committing a prohibited act, which court officials said means knowingly giving false information to government officials, filed against Warren J. Hays, who has billed himself for years as Santa Claus.

Hays, of Warren, was arrested on the misdemeanor charge in January because police said his state-issued identification card lists his name as Santa Claus.

The ruling came a month after Atty. Michael Rossi, who represent Hays, asked Judge Gysegem to dismiss the case.

Had the case not been dismissed, a jury trial was scheduled for next week, court officials said.

"Jolly old Saint Nicholas, lean your ear this way; you tell every single soul what I'm going to say," Judge Gysegem's ruling states. "Trial day is coming soon, now you dear old man; concerning BMV (Bureau of Motor Vehicles) and you -- I'll tell you best I can."

The ruling further notes that in order for the case not to be dismissed, prosecutors had to show that "Santa" knowingly displayed an identification card that was fictitious.

"This the state has not done," Gysegem states. He noted that Santa has had state identification cards with his photo since 1985.

"This court finds that Santa's act of displaying his Ohio Identification Card to the officer can in no way be construed to be a violation," Judge Gysegem states.

Hays could not be reached to comment.

Back to work

"Santa is very happy," Rossi said. "He is now going to go back and concentrate on his good works."

Rossi said that Hays "has been Santa Claus for more than 20 years." Rossi added that Hays has spent more than $150,000 of his own money to buy gifts for children.

Hays has also filed a civil suit against Eric Merkel, the police officer who arrested him. The case, which was filed in February, is pending in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. Rossi said a hearing in the lawsuit is scheduled for September.

Rossi noted that Hays pays him with checks bearing the name Santa Claus and, "They are good checks."




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