United States v. Thomas CR 87-0231
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
UNITED STATES FILED FEB 9 1988
CLERK, U.S. DISTRICT COURT
v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
WILLIAM THOMAS, Cr. No. 87-0231
This matter came before the court for a bench trial.
Defendants William Thomas and Ellen Thomas are charged with
camping in Lafayette Park, in violation of 36 C.F.R,
8 7.96(i) (1), between March 22 and March 29, 1987. Camping is
defined by the regulation as:
36 C.F.R. § 3.96(1)(1),
At trial, the governmentcalled three witnesses--the United
States Park Police officers who had issued camping citations to
defendants on fodr. occasions between March 22 and Harch 29,
the use of park land for living accommodation purposes
such as sleeping activities, or making preparatians to
sleep (including the laying down of bedding for the
Purpose of sleeping), or storing personal belongings,
or making any fire, or using any tents or shelter or
other structure or vehicle for sleeping or doing any
digging or earth breaking or carrying on cooking
activities. The above-listed activities constitute
camping when it reasonably appears, in light of all the
circumstances, that the participants, in conducting
these activities, are in fact using the area as a
living accommodation regardless of the inient of the
participants or the nature of any other activities in
which they may'also be engaging.
March 25/26. 1987
The first witness, patrol officer Daniel DeLullo, testified
that he issued a camping citation to each defendant just after
midnight on March 26th, Officer T)eLullo stated that he observed
defendants three times before issuing the ticket.
According to Officer DeLullo, at 10:00 p.m. on March 25, he
observed them sitting on one or two sleeping bags at their
demonstration site, which is located on the sidewalk that forms
thesouthernmost border of the park, across from the White House,
on the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. in the District of
Columbia. In addition to defendants, present at the site were
folne bottles of liquid, papers, plastic covering the signs, and
Ellen Thomas' bicycle. At 11:00 a,m., DeLullo observed that
defendants appeared to be sleepingi as they were laying down in
the sleeping bag(s). Plastic was all over the site, according to
the officer. Officer DeLullo reported that by this time he
lifted the plastic and told defendants that they were in
violation of the camping regulation,
Officer DeLullo returned to defendants' site again at 12:10
a.m., according to his testimony, and found defendants in the
same place hnd posture; Standing one foot away from'defendants
and detecting no movement, Oificer DeLullo concluded that they
were asleep. He wrote out citations for violating the.camping
regulation, lifted the plastic and gave a ticket to each
Under cross-examination bycounsel for defendant Ellen
Thomas, Officer DeLullo testifi$d that defendants did not break
ground, had no tent or fire, and did na cooking, DeLullo also
conceded that his criminal incident report did not mention Ellen
Thomas' bicycle, nor that he had warned defendants before issuing
During cross-examination by defendant William Thomas,
proceeding pro se, Officer DeLullo acknowledged that sleeping in the park, by itself, is not prohibited, DeLullo stated that
there were at least three bags of clothing also present at the
site. The officer agreed with Wiliiam Thomas' suggestion that it
was possible that the bags he saw at defendants site could have
been left there by other people whd frequent the park. DeLullo
added, however, that the bags were right next to defendants' site
and that he did not recall seeing anyone within 15 to 20 feet of
their site. DeLullo agreed with defendants characterization of
the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue as busy, with cars passing
and ambulances going to George Washington Hospital.
In her defense to these aliegatians, Ellen Thomas testified
that on March 25 at 11:00 p.m. she was sitting at her s'igns on
the south sidewalk of Lafayette Park. She testified that she had
a blanket but did recall hav having a sleeping bag with her. Ms.
Thomas stated that she did not sleep between the hours of 11:00
that nlght to 8:00 the the next morning. On cross-examination she acknowledged that she was lying prone at 12:10. Ms. Thomas stated further that she had with her a backpack and some literature but no plastic bags with clothes in them.
William Thomas testified in his defense that on March 25,
1987, he had been gone from the park most of the day; Mr. Thomas was not sure exactly when he returned, Thomas agreed that he was lying on bedding and was covered with plastic at his demonstration site when Officer DeLullo came on duty the night of the 25th, and that DeLullo warned demonstrators at other sites
that they were in violation of the camping regulations. Mr. Thomas also acknowledged that there was a bicycle at the site, and agreed that his backpack and literature in plastic bags may also have been present. Defendant acknowledged that he was lying down when DeLullo came by the second time and that DeLullo warned him that he was violating the regulations. Mr. Thomas agreed that DeLullo gave out citations to defendants the third time the officer returned, at about 12:10 the next morning.
March 22 and March 27, 1987
Park Police officer Richard DeRiso testified that he issued
camping citations to both defendants on March 22 and on March 27, 1987. Officer Deaiso testified 'that on March 22, 1987 at
approximately 6:00 a.m. he observed the defendants at their
demonstration site on the south sidewalk of Lafayatte Park.
Defendants were in sleeping bags and lying on blankets, according
to the officer. He also reported seeing clothes at the site,
strewn about in heaps within several feet of defendants. DeRiso
reported standinq next to defendants, whose heads were covered,
and hearing snoring. DeRiso then woke defendants up and told
them they were in violation of park regulations. Officer DeRiso
reported again observing the defendants asleep at their site,
which was in the same condition, on March 27, 1987 at
approximately 6:00 a.m. The officer woke defendants and issued
On cross-examination by counsel for Ellen Thomas, Officer
DeRiso agreed that it was possible that on March 22, 1987, he may not have issued the ticket until 7:30 that morning. DeRiso
acknowledged that his incident report for March 27, 1987 did not
state that defendant was sleeping, because he could not tell for
sure. The officer testified also that it was not prohibited,
under the proper circumstances, to have a 24-hour vigil in the
park, even for 365 days, nor to have a blanket, or coffee, or
leaflets, or clothing fopr reasonable use in a 24-hour period.
On cross-examination by William Thomas, DeRiso agreed that
sleeping in the park, by itself, was not unlawful. He stated it
was possible that on March 27, 1987 he did not issue the ticket
until 9:30 a.m. DeRiso acknowledged that he did not know to whom
the personal property around the demonstration site belonged.
In her defense, Ellen Thomas testified tbat on March 22,
1987 she was at her demonstration site, where she had a sleeping
bag and perhaps a blanket, at 6:20 a.m; Also at hersite, she
stated, were a backpack she keeps with her at all times, at most
two bottles (one water bottle and one with juice) and a bicycle
she takes wherever she goes, She denied having any clothes
stored in bags there,
Ellen Thomas testified also that on March 27th, 1987 at 6:00
a.m., she was sitting at her signs talking to William Thomas,
She had a sleeping bag and a plastic covering to keep warm. She
had no plastic bags with clothes in them, but stated that she and
William Thomas wrap their backpacks up in plastic to keep them
from getting wet, Ms. Thomas testified that William Thomas had
arrived at the park at 5:55 a.m. and that Officer DeRiso warned
defendants that they were violating the camping regulations. She
stated that she left a little while later to take the sleeping
bags out of the park and did not receive a citation that day.
William Thomas testified in his defense that at
approximately 4:00 a.m. on the morning of March 22nd, he slept
for about an hour and half, He was not sure if he had slept for
any other time that night. Thomas also testified that he took
the sleeping bags out of the park at approximately 6:30 a,m. and
spent the morning doing errands outside of the park. He stated
that when he returned to the park at about noon on March 22,
Ellen Thomas gave him a ticket that Officer DeRiso had made out
in William Thomas' name and given to her.
Mr. Thomas testified also that on Msrch 23, 1987, he was
gone from the park for most of the early morning, arriving just
before 6:00 a.m. Mr.. Thomas testified that he and Ellen Thomas
were lying down in their sleeping bags talking when he observed
Officer DeRiso park his car and approach them, Officer DeRiso
told defendants they were violating the camping regulation.
Ellen Thomas then got up and took the one sleeping bag they had
out of the park,
William Thomas testified that on that morning he was
slouched against his sign and DeRiso toid him to sit up because
it looked like he was camping. When defendant refused, DeRiso
gave him a ticket. DeRiso also tried to give a ticket for Ellen
Thomas to William Thomas but he refused to take it. Mr. Thomas
reported that he did not sleep in the park at all that day.
Robert Dorrough was called as a witness by defendants and
testified that he was present on the morning of March 27, 1987
when Officer DeRiso was issuing camping tickets, one of which
Dorrough received. Dorrough stated that DeRiso first came by
around 6:30 a.m. and later returned at approximately 9:00 a.m. at
which time he gave tickets to Dorrough and William Thomas, but
not to Ellen Thomas, who was not in the park then.
March 29. 1983
Park Police Officer William Doerrler testified that he
issued camping citations to defendants an March 29, 1987.
Officer Doerrler reported that he observed defendants at 6:15
a.m. on March 29th at their demonstration site on the southern
sidewalk of Lafayette Park. Ellen Thomas was sitting, leaning
against a sign, William Thomas was prone, lying on matting, with
a blanket over him. Doerrler reported seeing clothes in heaps,
bundles and bags around the site, The officer stated that he warned defendants they were in violatian of the regulations.
When the officer returned with violation tickets, William Thomas
had left. When Mr Thomas returned to the park later in the day,
Officer Doerrler gave the tickets to him.
On cross-exaination by counsel for Ellen Thomas, Officer
Doerrler acknowledged that although he believed both defendants
were asleep when he observed them, he could not be sure.
Doerrler also conceded that his incident report did not mention
the presence of bags around the site, and that he didn't know to
whom such personal property belonged. Under re-direct
questioning by the government the officer explained that he had
seen no one else around defendants' site, On cross-examination
by William Thomas, Doerrler agreed that there was no prohibition
against using a blanket to cover yourself in the park.
In defense, Ellen Thomas testified that on March 29, 1987 at
6:15 a.m. she was leaning against her sign talking to Park Police
Officer Ferbee. Ms. Thomas stated that she did not have a
sleeping bag, buta blanket was pulled up over her legs, Ms.
Thomas stated that there were no plastic bags at the
William Thomas testified in his defense that in the early
morning of March 29, 1987, he napped from 3:00 to 5:00 or 5:30
a.m. Thomas stated that Officer Doerrler came on duty at 6:00
a.m. but that neither he nor Ellen Thomas received a ticket from
Doerrler that day, He testified furtber that defendants had no
sleeping bags in the park on that date but may have used a
blanket because it was chilly,
The court denied defendants' motions for judgment of
acquittal. William Thomas renewed his motion to subpoena
Richard Robbins and Patricia Bangert, Assistant Solicitors in the
Department of the Interior. The court granted defendant motion
with regard to Richard Robbins and denied the motion with regard
to Patricia Bangert.
Robert Dorraugh testified on behalf of defendants. Mr.
Dorrough stated that he was in the park during the period March
22 to March 29, 1987 and observed Ellen Thomas maintaining
vigils, leafleting, and speaking tc passersby about the
elimination of nuclear weapons. He testified that Ellen Thomas'
actions were motivated by her belief in God, her vow of poverty
and her religious duty to communicate and demonstrate. Dorrough
stated that defendants moved their night-time coverings away from
the park during the day, and that he has never seen them store
at their demonstration site any clothing or literature greater
than an amount they would use within a 24-hour period.
Dorrough also stated that other people leave their
belongings around Ellen Thomas' site. Mr. Dorrough testified
that homeless people, some of whom are alcoholics, congregate at
some benches to the north of defendants' demonstration site.
These people, he noted, have all of their personal belongings
with them, and sometimes leave them behind for a period of time.
Dorrough stated that Ellen Thomas removes from her site any
property left there by others. Dorrough testified also that he
has never seen Ellen Thomas sleep continuously during -the night.
He noted that she talks to passersby, and that the po~icepolice wake up people in the park at night.
Philip Joseph testified for the defendants regarding
his observations of their activities in Lafayette Park, Mr,
Joseph stated that Ellen Thomas removes her sleeping bag and
blanket from the park everyday at sunrise. Joseph stated that he
has seen other people, such as homeless peaple and alcoholics,
leave things around her demonstration site but that she keeps no
extra literature, clothing or food there beyond what she would
use in a 24-hour period. He also testified that the police often
confiscate as abandoned such personal property that is left
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