This article was first published at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on June 26th, 2013:
When Joe Carr, along with five of his baseball buddies from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, decided to fly to Washington to watch their Twins take on the Washington Nationals in June, he had no idea he'd leave the city with a criminal record and $50 poorer.
In a sarcastic jest he decided to write about his experience in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, and they printed it. He explains what happened:
The Friday, June 7, night tilt between the Nationals and my Mighty Fighting Minnesota Twins was rained out by Tropical Storm Andrea. I was hosting five of my buddies on our annual baseball weekend, and, having lived in the D.C. area in the '90s, I had booked the hotel, purchased the game tickets and planned the requisite Mall and monument tours. We were going to drop some serious cash (well, by Midwestern standards, anyway) into the local economy.
The rainout resulted in my possessing six tickets — worth $360 — to the second game of a Sunday doubleheader scheduled to be played when my friends and I would be somewhere over Chicago. However, as any baseball fan knows, there is always a market for club-level seats. So I proceeded to “market” the seats as I walked up to Nationals Park prior to Saturday's 4:05 p.m. game.
Fast forward: after offering his tickets (he was willing to let them go for less than the $60 he had invested in each of them) to several people who turned him down, he was accosted by a uniformed member of the local constabulary, along with a trainee who was about to get a lesson in how to shake down a visitor. Here's the conversation:
Officer: What are you asking? [Note: this is a solicitation.]
Carr: I'd love to get face value.
Officer: You're under arrest for solicitation.
Trainee: You're going to do this?
Carr: You've got to be kidding.
Officer: Does it look like I'm kidding? [Is this intimidation?]
The OIC (officer large and in charge) called for backup, put Carr into the back seat of the cruiser when it arrived, sans belt and shoes but wearing handcuffs, took him “downtown” for a mug shot, fingerprinting, and cool-off time in a jail cell for 2½ hours. The judge showed up, fined him $50, and let him go, leaving behind a criminal record.
As Mark Perry noted, Joe never actually sold his tickets. He ate the $360. There wasn't even a transaction. There was no victim. He wasn't charged with scalping either, just solicitation.
Carr described his experience into Washington's welcome chamber of “downtown” as “Kafka-esque” where everything is upside down and inside out:
I broke a law. Guilty. But what purpose was served by my arrest? It didn't make any financial sense. I am certain that the costs of my arrest, transport and processing had to be many multiples of the $50 I paid. Does the District have a massive budget surplus it needs to spend down?
What Carr ran into was the war on the free market, in a microscopic moment. Carr bought his tickets. He owned them. He paid for them. They were his property. Under free market principles he would be free to use them (or not), give them away, will them to his heirs, or sell them (at any price that a willing fully informed buyer would pay). But not in Washington, DC. Their definition of “solicitation” is different.
In the United States, there are three parts to the crime of solicitation:
- The encouraging, bribing, requesting or commanding a person
- To commit a substantive crime
- With the intent that the person solicited actually commit the crime.
You can see where this is going. Apparently, in Washington, DC, attending a baseball game with tickets purchased from another person is a “substantive crime.” Looking at the Washington National's record to date, attending any of their games is a crime – of boredom.
Joe Carr: Welcome, baseball fan. Go directly to jail.
Current Washington Nationals standings
Mark Perry: Great moments in government prosecution of innocent baseball fans for victimless crimes that didn't even take place