January 06, 2011 5:58

New York City vs. chess players -- case dismissed

New York City Vs. Chess Players -- Case DismissedSix men were arrested in October for playing chess in a playground in a park in New York City. Two of them decided to fight the charges. Macauley Peterson, who went to the New York City Criminal Court in lower Manhattan yesterday, reports.

By Macauley Peterson

On October 20th, at two o’clock in the afternoon in New York City, a group of seven men were playing chess at built-in chess tables in a public park in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, as they had done numerous times before. Suddenly a NYC police patrol car rolled up to the gate of the park, and several officers approached the men and charged them with occupying the park unaccompanied by any children, in violation of a posted regulation meant to protect kids from pedophiles. The park was empty at the time.

The players were issued summonses and ordered to appear in court, and possibly to face trial. On December 28th, five of the men settled the case, with what’s known as an ACD -- adjournment in contemplation of dismissal. The charges will be fully dismissed provided the men have no further run ins with the law for six months. Two of the defendants, Yacahudah Harrison and Christopher Peralta, decided to seek a dismissal without any exceptions -- to fight for their right to play chess in public parks.

On the fourth floor of New York City Criminal Court in lower Manhattan, the Part B courtroom came to order at approximately 9:50 on Tuesday morning, with the Honorable Mark Whiten presiding.

Harrison and Peralta were the first item on the docket. Their attorney, Norman Siegel, a former director of the New York Civil Liberties Union (full disclosure: I’m a member), immediately moved for dismissal of the summons arguing it was “defective.” The players were cited under parks department regulation 103-3, which indicates that the chess players should not be in the park if it were closed to the public. However on the day in question the park was open to the public.

The posted sign regarding being accompanied by children is from a different section of the park regulations. Therefore, the case was dismissed for both defendants.

The men say they even had explicit permission to be there from a park ranger, whose name was withheld to protect his or her privacy, and Mr. Siegal would have subpoenaed the ranger, if necessary, to testify.

Although dismissed on a technicality, the case raises a larger issue regarding chess tables in or near children’s parks. "People have a right to play chess, and children have a right to be in the park," said Siegal, who added he would follow up with the general counsel for the Parks Department, which may need to revise its policies.

New York City Vs. Chess Players -- Case Dismissed

From Left to Right, Christopher Peralta, Yacahudah Harrison, Norman Siegel, Earl Ward, outside the Manhattan Criminal Court Photo: Macauley

Defense co-counsel Earl Ward called the police decision to issue the chess players tickets immediately rather than giving them a warning, “zealous". Peralta lamented the whole incident saying "they treated us like criminals." Both he and Harrison are pleased to be able to put the matter behind them, and get back to the chess board, this time either in a local boutique / cafe which may offer them a playing space, or in the neighborhood McDonald's.

An audio clip with Yacahudah Harrison, comparing this case to the Muzio variation of the King’s Gambit, will be in the forthcoming episode of The Full English Breakfast.

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meshrath's picture

Stupid comment !!

meshrath's picture

Stupid comment !! .............@ Pal G's comment that is.

Sergio's picture

And another one for the book: Wierdest court cases in the USA.

iLane's picture

This ridiculous case reminds me my own experience in NYC when I was caught by a policeman in the Underground having a valid ticket but (unnoticedly) entering on an (open) door which was reserved for handicapped persons. I was fined for some $100 and summoned to court after I refused to pay. Being European I never showed up at the court so the fine went up and up until the last notice was about over $500 which I never payed but I fear I still have a file somewhere so I wonder if I can ever go back to the land of freedom...

Joe's picture

What surprises me is the unevenness of many comments here. I've been following ChessVibes for a little more than a year and one of the things I've always liked is that the comments on posts were, as a rule, of a certain level (if for example compared to YouTube comments), with a lot of nuance, making sense, weighing both sides of a dispute, trying to make a proper judgement, etc..

Apparently this was mostly the case (or so I think atm) due to the fact that the articles were about chess generally, and that chessplayers won't dare to say too stupid things about the game of chess. But when talking about politics, I really see pretty stupid comments quite alot above. (comments that do not make sense, that don't take counterarguments seriously, comments without any nuance etc.)

S's picture

@sergio; apart from your comment on the atomic bomb(s)-that effectively ended ww2- all your statements are just untrue.

@kakashi: for one, AK47's and whatever else they use there are mostly not American made (rather they are from Russia, China, middle east and Africa).

@David: America did take out the nazi's. The other main party was the terrible Soviet Union and for that reason Europe should be very happy with the American activities in ww2 too. And fortunately the Americans are not "forcing" anything upon you (assuming you don't live in some dictatorship that sponsors terrorism).

S's picture

That's just ignorance speaking.

A small list of some who did call:
France, Brittain and numerous smaller countries in WW1 and 2.
The Quwaiti's and Shia in Iraq.
The Bosnians, Croats and other parties in Yugoslavia (they have erected a big statue for president Clinton there).
You'd be hard pressed to find a country that has more power, guts, and ideals to fight for a better world.

ebutaljib's picture

You are living in a dream world.

S's picture

And you in the third, I suppose ? ;)

KingTal's picture

Welcome to America.

test's picture

And the new fascism.

Castro's picture

"Hey kid, please take me to the park, or else they won't let me have my dear chess!"

Wouter Otto Levenbach aka Dave's picture

Lol you obviously never left the USA...

I'm sick of phony "patriotic" people who cant take any critics towards America, being patriotic is criticizing your own country as well in order to improve it, but try to explain that to the average american, good luck!

BTW the court system in the USA is a total joke...

Zeblakob's picture

Agree, just get a look at what happend to Fisher when he was kidnapped and tortured by cops. This never happens here in France fo Germany for instance.

S's picture

It should be pretty clear that I am not an American, and the USA at least has a court system. You obviously don't know how many countries lack anything resembling justice.

Marcos's picture

USA is a joke and your perception of USA being the police of the world is dumb.

Pal G.'s picture

I didn't say anything about Policing. Notice I said "please do not call us". That implies being asked for help.

Nice try.

S's picture

I wish the USA was world police..It's the only country that had the power and sense to take out the nazi's, to stop the Soviet threat, to save the muslims and others in former Yugoslavia, to stop the mass murderer Saddam Hussein and the only country that really wants to do something about Darfur and other current problems like the Taliban in Afghanistan training terrorists. They make mistakes, and are not always succesfull, but as we can see in the news above, so do "other" cops, and for America the balance to the world is very positive. And we are not even talking about the great inventions and values that came from this great nation.

Of course this makes many people all over the world (usually in impotent countries with power long gone) very envious, and it shows in this thread.

Go America!, go Pal!

Sergio's picture

I really had to laugh about your post.

The only country that ever used an atom - bomb, the country where the most presidents got murdered. The only country that helped Saddam Husain in the first place. The country with the highest deals in weapons. The country that brought us in the economic crisis

And now I qoute you: "Of course this makes many people all over the world (usually in impotent countries with power long gone) very envious, and it shows in this thread. ". This mainly goes for the USA.

kakashi's picture

the usa is the number one arms dealer in the world. the violence in darfur is being carried out with american made weapons. so you can take that self righteous attitude of yours and shove it right up your arse

Sergio's picture

I know it is mainly going about politics know and not chess, but with this article it is hard to focus on chess and not the politics behind it, so i think this makes the discussion justified.


Haha that is easy saying everything else i say is untrue. I got a challange for you. Name me a country that got more presidents murdered then the US. And where did the economic crisis start if it wasn't the US according you? Ok about arm deals it might be hard to find figures that are verifeable.

And about WWI, WWII, Yugoslavia an the US involvement in the middle east, i think that is just about their own interests and not to help anyone.

Septimus's picture

Wow, just wow... I don't think this will happen anywhere else in the world. :(

Something is seriously wrong when the Police harass innocent chess players. I'm pretty sure things would have turned out differently if they were female.

Wouter Otto Levenbach aka Dave's picture

I'm a New Yorker and I can tell that Bloomberg is really dangerous.
We can't smoke near buildings, he wants to ban smoking in all public parks all over the 5 boroughs and outdoor touristic sites like Time square!
This law banning men without children in playgrounds is the symbol of what this city is becoming, repressive laws for over protective ignorant moms enforced by stupid, fat and brutal cops at each and every corner of this city.
By the way, if Bloomberg is good at busting chess players he doesn't seem to care that much about his own administration :



Since the blizzard, which was taken care of by the people, we have huge piles of trash bags all over the Upper East Side sitting there for about 10 days now because he didn't to pay his employees extra for the holidays...

calvin amari's picture

Based solely on what I have read in this cogent report, my clear impression is that this case has done nothing to rectify the issue. In other words, if a similar prosecution were brought in the future with a summons citing to the proper regulation, the current decision would be of no precedential benefit to the defense whatsoever. Of course the first obligation of a lawyer is to represent the immediate interests of his clients, but a riskier approach - fighting the case on the civil rights merits as opposed to a procedural technicality - certainly could have done more good.

Castro's picture

Yes, THAT was the detail that stroke me the most, and, indeed, the absolute main one!

lefthandsketch's picture

Wow. That's brave not taking an ACD and instead deciding to fight the charges on their face. I mean, here it would seem that no judge in the world would actually convict these two, but if I had been in their shoes I would have been kindly asking for an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal the first time I got in front of a judge and not looking back.

Honestly though, what were these cops thinking? I mean, there are plenty of actual crimes that you could bust the chess players in tompkins square park for, but I've never seen that happen. Instead, these cops crack down on these guys in the middle of nowhere inwood... I can only guess that the cops expected to find drugs on them and were surprised when they didnt.

Daaim Shabazz's picture

These cases happen rather frequently. When I covered this story in November, I recounted a couple of other incidents where chess players were being pushed around including one in Chicago back in 2002 and a recent one in San Francisco. The cases are all strikingly similar.

kakashi's picture

This only happens in the "land of the free". america is such a joke. Its no wonder that 3 million americans are in jail.

kakashi's picture

The cops probably drove by 2 meth labs and 3 hookers on their way to the park. Holy Moly, its NYC, do they really have no real criminals to go after? Americans are paranoid. If these mothers are so paranoid that someone is going to grab their child they should just stay home, lock the doors and hide under the bed. The rest of us brave souls will be outside, enjoying life.

Pal G.'s picture

If America is such a joke, please do not call us next time your international neighbors notice your women and you need back up.

Anthony's picture

ah, you are raping Afghanistan to help the women, that's right, we forgot

ebutaljib's picture

"If America is such a joke, please do not call us next time your international neighbors notice your women and you need back up."

NOBODY has ever called you. You came if it was any interest for you, otherwise you turn your back and completely ignore it.

But lets not start talking about politics here. It's a chess site.

Sander's picture

Thats what you get for voting Republican. They say every country gets the leadership it deserves. Though in Holland its even worse, we have 2 right wing parties forming the government, 'condoned' by a fascist party. Expect ridiculous law suits to follow in Holland as well.

S's picture

It's not a fascist party, it's just a party you don't like and thus you lie about it. That says something about you. Anyway, pretty stupid to drag politics into this,

S's picture

I forgot to mention, there is only one "right wing" party in the government, not two.

Sander's picture

Just because you say its not a fascist party doesnt make it not a fascist party. It is NOT just a party, how can you seriously say it is. The fact that I say its a fascist party does indeed say a lot about me....that Im not blind like you apparently.
And by the way , the police acted according a political vision that is typically right-winged; oppression and fear. So I was not the one who brought politics in the discussion, the topic itself is political by nature.
And the CDA is too a righ-twinged party, they have proven that by cynically eliminating the few CDA-members with good sense who were against forming a government backed by fascists.
And by the way (2), being personal and calling things 'stupid' is not evry constructive in a forum and it doesnt actually show maturity.

S's picture

No, lying is stupid and not very constructive. Really amusing how you try to defend that this article is related to Dutch politics.
As for the rest, enjoy your government!! :-)

Pal G.'s picture

New York is one of, if not the most Liberal (Democrat) state in the U.S. Your comment does not make much sense.

Sander's picture

Well that may be true, but Bloomberg, as the mayor as head of the police, is in fact not Democratic, so perhaps my comment does make some sense...

According to many European politics(perhaps falsely implying some kind of uniformity but its the best I can do to make the point) many Democratic policies and ideas are actually right-winged. So being a Democrat doesnt make you nescessarily left-winged but its the best those poor Americans have.

Its historic irony that a one-party system is a symbol for absolute totalitarism and that by adding just one party you have a party system thats supposed to be the epithomy of Democracy

S's picture

Anyone who payed attention during history lessons knows why the USA is known as that.
And though the USA may be described as having a two party system people are free to vote on other marginal parties as well. Maybe you didn't know that.

Judging from your comment above ("doesnt make you nescessarily left-winged but its the best those poor Americans have") you are clearly biased but you need to realize that people in the USA just prefer other things than in your country-the general population is probably more "conservative" than what is to your taste.
I bet that you find this very facist of them.

Erik Fokke's picture

Thanks for posting this.
I live in Amsterdam, but it is good to know what's going in the world and maybe at some point we get the same oppressive stuff overhere in out parks and our public spaces.

I am glad some of these guys had the guts and the spirit to resist.

S's picture

Sadly enough, 90% of the comments on this story are just pathetic insults to the USA, though it is one of the few countries where you can go to court, get a fair trial and can get acquited when innocent.

Ridiculous cops and laws are common to all countries, trials not.

Sergio's picture

Fair trial?? I always have questioned trials and the law in the USA with jury ruling and with the pressure to play guilty and get a lower sentence. Most is just about how can afford the best laywers and have a face the people of the jury like.

Anthony's picture

lol, more people are in jail in the US than Russia and China combined.
Everybody outside the US knows what a total joke the 'land of the free' has become, but you guys think TSA goons are there for your security, so just keep dreaming. You deserve it all.

Macauley's picture

Let's take it down a notch, people.

The criminal justice system in the U.S.A. is NOT a total joke. It has its flaws, but it's not bad.
Yes, the US has too many people in jail, largely as a result of failed drug policy.
Yes, criticism and open discussion is generally good, and can be perfectly patriotic.
No, none of this has much to do with the story. Take it to another forum please.

S's picture

I am pretty sure you don't even know how many people are in jail in China, or Russia for that matter. And there is no way to find out either, but I am afraid you haven't even tried to check what you were saying.

Anthony's picture

just google the simple facts dude, this is the information age.

Please report back your findings.

S's picture

Like I said, you have no clue. As if the number of Chinese and Russian detainees is out in the open.
When YOU state there are more people in jail in the USA than anywhere else YOU should have those facts. And clearly, you don't have them. That, really, says enough.

S's picture

Indeed, case closed; you were wrong.

rivaldo's picture

so why do you think, the other 4 men didn't fight for their right at court? because they had doubts in the jurisdiction?

I also wonder why by the US imprisoned men at guantanamo don't defend themselves at court!? is their food too good or the healthcare at guantanamo better than usual?


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