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Attorneys want pigeon case dismissed

Man cited in the past for feeding birds near airport is being overcharged, lawyers say.

February 12, 2012|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

Attorneys for the man accused of creating a public safety nuisance at Bob Hope Airport by feeding a large flock of pigeons argued Friday in court that there was insufficient evidence in the case, and that the charges should be dropped.

Charles Douglas pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges of creating a public nuisance and disobeying a court order in September.

Donald Ingalls, who with Bruce Kaufman represents the Burbank business owner, said Friday that their client should be facing only an infraction for violating the Burbank municipal code for feeding pigeons and should not face the repercussions of a state nuisance charge, a misdemeanor.

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Defense attorneys also said Douglas already faces an alleged probation violation in a related case and a new charge of being in contempt of court should not apply.

Burbank Assistant City Atty. Denny Wei said a judge had already ordered Douglas not to feed pigeons.

“That's why we're prosecuting him, because he is in contempt of court,” Wei said.

In his comments to the judge, Wei said a local statute does not preclude a state statute and said the defense's argument lacked merit.

Ingalls said that authorities were trying to intimidate his client, and that they “wanted to teach him a lesson.”

Airport authorities allege Douglas, 59, has been feeding pigeons since September 2010, a violation of municipal code.

Of greater concern to airport officials is the threat posed to aircraft when large numbers of birds come near the airfield.

In July, a Southwest Airlines flight was diverted to Ontario after it flew into 20 to 30 pigeons during takeoff, airport authorities have said.

Court records show Douglas has been cited several times for creating a nuisance by feeding pigeons. In August 2011, Burbank police arrested Douglas at his business on suspicion of disobeying a court order and creating a public nuisance by feeding pigeons.

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

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 in February 2011, Douglas was found guilty of feeding pigeons to the point of creating a nuisance, court documents show.

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

Ingalls said at an October court appearance that Douglas lacked an attorney at prior proceedings and called his client’s arrest a “media frenzy.”

Wei said the maximum penalty on one of the misdemeanors is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Margaret Oldendorf is expected to issue a written decision next week.

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