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Man fights the law and the law ... lost

bigjoe • May 6, 2011 at 1:39 PM

Marvin Thorp just wanted to make a point. Little did he think he would get out of his speeding ticket.

Thorp, 61, of Fayette, got a speeding ticket in Wakeman on his way home from visiting his in-laws in Middleburg Heights on March 20.

He went to Norwalk Municipal Court April 14, contesting he was pulled over in an unmarked car. Judge John Ridge continued the case until Thursday, when he agreed with Thorp, saying the "officer is not competent to testify."

So just like that, faster than Thorp was driving through Wakeman, Ridge ruled him not guilty.

Thorp explained why he pursued the case instead of just paying the fine.

"I am trying to make a point and I don't think it is right the people who are hired to 'protect and serve' should do this," Thorp said before the he went to court Thursday. "Three times since then I have been back through Wakeman and each time the police have had people pulled over.

"Why don't they have better signs put up. Protect me. Serve me. I swear I am profiled because I have a nice car. When they pulled me over I was civil. They know they won't have trouble from me. That's all my speculation and there is no way I can prove that."

Thorp had pictures of the police car, which were included in Wakeman Solicitor Randal Strickler's briefings.

It is white with a light bar and no markings on the doors. It says "police" on the trunk and the department's Web site on the back bumper. "It's (the police markings on the trunk) not distinctive and he had it parked so you couldn't read it anyway," Thorp said. "The light bar looks like a car-top carrier until it is lit."

There is a Wakeman police shield on the front quarter panels and Emergency 911 stickers on the back quarter panels.

Thorp, a retired teacher, makes the trip often.

"My mother- and father-in-law who are in their 80s live in Middleburg Heights and they are in failing health," he said. "I refuse to use the turnpike if I can help it because they cut a corner of my grandfather's farm, took it, eminent domain, and told him one day your grandchildren will drive on this free. In 1991 they did pay off the loan but they put in on the ballot and the people voted to keep it a paid road.

"The people who put the wear and tear on it, the ones who drive coast to coast, should pay but the ones like us (from Ohio) who paid for it (originally) should drive it for free."

Thorp talked about the day he got his ticket.

"Driving home, I'm heading west on 20 and as soon as I get to the town limits it changes from 55 to 35," he said. "There is a warning sign but I am heading into the sun and could not see. Coming from the west to the east it goes from 55 to 45 to 35.

"He took the speed as soon as I got into the town limits. A speedtrap is a speedtrap is a speedtrap. The car is not marked properly."

Thorp cited Revised Code 4549.13, which states a police car shall be marked "in some distinctive manner or color."

"White is not a color -- it is a neutral. I am an art teacher," Thorp said. "Because of that, the next section of the revised code says if there is an officer driving that car he is "incompetent to testify if the judge rules that car is not marked properly."

Thorp defended himself, and, according to the old saying, "I am an idiot," he said with a laugh.

(He also said his wife called him an idiot for fighting the ticket).

"I was going a safe and reasonable speed," he said. "They don't set up speed limits to catch people, but to protect people."

Does he have any law experience?

"I love Judge Judy," he said. "I didn't go to law school. My little brief I sent in was one page. The brief I got from him (Strickler) has seven pictures taken by the chief of police and six pages. He also has an affidavit from the chief of police."

Wakeman Police Chief Tim Hunker said Wakeman has been writing tickets from the same car for two years.

"We marked the vehicle, we thought, in accordance with the Ohio Revised Code," Hunker said. "Ours is a minimum marked car. According to the court we are not competent, so we are going to make changes. We write more tickets with the car with full details.

"We will do what it takes to be in compliance with the court. We are going to make it right with the court tomorrow morning."

Thorp contended Wakeman is a speedtrap. Is it?

"Define a speedtrap," Hunker said. "Do we make you speed when you come through town? No. We have dropped considerably the number of tickets we have written since the late 90s and early 2000s. This minimal marked car has not changed anything.

"We only write tickets on about half of our stops," he added. "I think that is a pretty good percentage."

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