Judge Blasts Amtrak For False Arrest in Merion

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carla's picture
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You know when I first heard Amtrak had arrested sweet Andris Peterson the day after it had happened, I thought it was a joke - but it wasn't. Andris Peterson lives in Merion where the current clear cutting and deforesting issue exists. It was written about here, when the fire on Hathaway Lane was discussed, which is also discussed here on the SEPTA watch blog.

So anyway, Amtrak got a big black eye on this one and I am glad we have judges like Karen Eisner Zucker.

Judge blasts Amtrak for arresting Merion man on his own property
Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2009
By Richard Ilgenfritz

A judge in Bala Cynwyd publicly blasted Amtrak officials and an Amtrak police officer in court Monday for arresting a Merion resident on his property for trespassing on their property even though no one seems certain where the property lines are.

Bala Cynwyd District Magisterial Judge Karen Eisner Zucker threw out two citations issued to Andris Peterson of Merwyne Road in Merion. The citations were issued by an Amtrak police officer after an incident in March.

“I find myself growing angrier as I hear this case,” Zucker said after she listened to nearly an hour’s worth of testimony. “This is the United States of America and I find the conduct of Amtrak police to be outrageous.… The idea that at some early morning hour Amtrak police come onto an individual’s property — which is very clearly [his] property — and arrest and handcuff him I find outrageous.”

Zucker went on to ask if there has been any discussion between Peterson and Amtrak since the March 31 incident on where the property line is.

“I fault Amtrak here in putting the community and [Amtrak] employees in such confusion as to where a boundary is,” Zucker said shortly before dismissing all of the charges against Peterson.

The dispute between Peterson and Amtrak began last summer when Amtrak employees were clearing brush and debris along the tracks and destroyed a community garden that had been planted by Peterson about 18 years ago. A stop on area garden tours, the garden was at least partially on Amtrak’s property. However, a big part of the problem was confusion as to where the property lines were. Peterson’s Merion back yard is next to Amtrak’s rail line....According to Peterson, he had a good relationship with Amtrak for many years since he began planting the garden. Peterson said Amtrak representatives had told him how much of their property he could use for his garden. However, after Amtrak workers destroyed the garden last summer for a second time, Peterson began complaining to a number of media outlets including the Main Line Times.

Over the winter little happened until about 3 a.m. March 31 when Peterson and his wife were awakened by the sounds of heavy machinery ripping out vegetation along the tracks.

Peterson testified that he walked out of his house and began approaching the work crew. According to Peterson, one of the men called him by name and told him to leave the area. From his account of the events, Peterson said, he wanted to ask the men not to cut down a couple of trees one of his neighbors had planted in memory of his mother.

...A spokeswoman for Amtrak said the attorneys and Amtrak police had “no comment on the proceedings.”

I have a comment for Amtrak: Say you are sorry. Admit you were wrong. Try to learn to be a good neighbor, or we will continue to have stories that make one think Like a bad neighbor, Amtrak is there, right?

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Woozaleedoodle's picture
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Unreal. I hope he sues Amtrak for false imprisonment.

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LexoTime5's picture
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That's is one of the saddest stories I've heard in a long time. Amtrak has a bizarre, bloated, outdated bureaucracy worthy of the late British Empire. It's sad when powerful agencies like this treat people so callously. We ourselves almost bought a house with, we were told, substantial yard space for homeowners' use technically on Amtrak property. I'm glad now that we did not, but I feel for whoever eventually did buy, as well as all those with the misfortune to live along the rail lines. It's too bad, since train riding itself is one of the most relaxing and environmentally responsible ways to travel.

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dmuth's picture
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Kudos to Commissioner Gordon for representing Mr. Peterson on a Pro Bono basis.

There's something to be said for elected officials standing up for their constituents in cases like this.

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Woozaleedoodle's picture
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No surprise here. Commisioner Gordon has proven himself invaluable over the years in his defense of Gotham City.

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politeia's picture
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A local judge who does not automatically side with the police, but rather considers the rights of citizens and the rule of law.

My kind of judge.

=================

Brotherhood of Thieves

~ As we must account for every idle word, so must we account for every idle silence.

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