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Bird feeder's arrest called 'media frenzy'

Attorney says client has not fed pigeons near airport

police report seeing him do so.

October 23, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

In court for a pre-trial hearing Friday, attorneys for the man accused of creating an aircraft safety hazard at the Bob Hope Airport by feeding a large flock of pigeons called his arrest an overblown media frenzy stoked by authorities.

Attorneys for Charles Douglas, owner of Precise Roofing Co. on Hollywood Way, requested more time in Los Angeles County Superior Court to review transcripts they said they only received this week and to discuss the matter with the Burbank city attorney’s office.

The roofing company is across the street from airport runways and since September 2010, police have cited Douglas three times for creating a nuisance by feeding pigeons — a violation of Burbank municipal code.

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Airport officials have said that in July, a Southwest Airlines flight was diverted to Ontario after it flew into 20 to 30 pigeons during takeoff, a problem they attributed to Douglas’ bird feeds.

Donald Ingalls, who with Bruce Kaufman represents the Glendale resident, said after Friday’s court appearance that their client lacked an attorney at prior proceedings.

Ingalls also said they would like to reach a resolution with the city by Dec. 2, when Douglas is due back in court.

Ingalls called his client’s arrest a “media frenzy.”

“[They’re] up in arms thinking he’s causing a danger of some kind — he’s not,” Ingalls said.

On Sept. 9, Douglas, 59, pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges of creating a public nuisance and disobeying a court order.

Ingalls said he understood the concern of police and airport officials who allege Douglas fed pigeons to the point where they posed a safety hazard for flights at the airport, but insisted his client was innocent, adding that police never actually saw him doing it.

“[They] are victimizing Mr. Douglas — he didn’t do anything wrong,” Ingalls said.

In an interview in August, airport police Cmdr. Allen Schmitt said an officer saw Douglas put feed on the ground on Sept. 29, 2010.

In December 2010 and again in February, Douglas was found guilty of feeding pigeons so as to create a nuisance, court documents show.

On July 31, Douglas was again cited for feeding pigeons, Schmitt said.

After the most recent incident, an employee at HUB Network, also on Hollywood Way, said he had seen bird feed on the ground in the area behind Douglas’ business.

On Aug. 19 Burbank police arrested Douglas at his business on suspicion of disobeying a court order and creating a public nuisance by feeding pigeons.

He posted $5,000 bail the same day, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Burbank Assistant City Atty. Denny Wei said the maximum penalty on one of the misdemeanors is six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

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