The lawyer of a man charged with littering for placing campaign signs in front of the office of Georgetown's mayor says it's "absurd" to call what happened littering after watching video of the incident.
Mark Allen Mercer Sr. was arrested June 30 for littering, two days after Georgetown City Administrator Paul Gardner reported the incident to police.
The incident happened shortly after City Councilman Brendon Barber defeated Mayor Jack Scoville in a runoff election for the Democratic mayoral primary June 27.
The Georgetown Times received a copy of surveillance video of the event through a Freedom of Information Act request to the city.
The footage shows a truck pulling up to Scoville's office at 1001 Front Street at 9:26 p.m. June 27, according to the video's time stamp. A man gets out of the truck, grabs Scoville's "Back Jack" campaign signs out of the truck bed and walks up to the building. He places the signs against a sandwich board at the foot of the building's steps.
He goes back to the rear of the car before walking back toward the building. He stops on the sidewalk as a woman approaches him. An interaction between the two occurs, and the man gets back in his truck and drives away.
The video shows the woman, identified in a police report as Suzanne Holt, an employee at a different law firm in the same building as Scoville's law office, picking up the signs, walking up the building's steps and setting the signs at the door. Holt told police she asked the man what he was doing and the man replied, "Giving these back to Jack -- make sure he gets them."
In the video, Holt then walks back down Front Street heading toward Fraser Street and appears to be on her cell phone.
She gets back to her car and a few moments go by before another vehicle, a Range Rover, does a U-turn on Front Street and stops in front of the building. Holt pulls her car in behind the Range Rover, just as a man gets out of the Rover's passenger side and appears to snap a picture of the building with his cell phone.
The man gets back in the Rover and the car drives off heading east down Front Street.
Gardner said he went to see Scoville at his office the next morning, but Scoville hadn't arrived yet when Gardner got there. He said he spoke with Holt about the previous night's events. Gardner told the Georgetown Times he reported the incident to police because he thought the city had been a victim of littering.
Gardner, formerly the city's police chief, said he knows the location of the city's surveillance cameras and that he understood this particular incident would've been captured on camera.
"So I knew we had evidence of whatever happened," he said.
Mayor Scoville has repeatedly said he did not get involved with the case.
An officer took a sworn statement from Holt later that day in which Holt identifies Mercer as the man with the signs. But Holt's statement incorrectly identifies the man who took the picture as Steve Rothrock, when in fact it was Rothrock's friend - Lee Padgett.
Rothrock, who has white hair and a white beard, told the Times he was driving his Range Rover at the time.
Padgett told the Times he took the pictures. "I am the one who took the pictures - not Steve," Padgett said.
Padgett has dark hair and no beard.
Holt's statement said she recognized Mercer from her neighborhood. It does not say where she knew Rothrock from.
Mercer's attorney, Bill Duncan, said it doesn't make sense that someone could be charged with littering based on the video.
"Could any one conceivably think that placing those signs would be considered littering," he said.
Duncan owns the office building in question and said he's not sure if the area where the signs were placed is even public property.
Mercer has a court date in mid-August, and Duncan said they plan to go to trial.
"To me, it just seems absurd," Duncan said about the charge.
Duncan also took issue with the fact that Mercer was arrested three days after the incident and booked into the county jail on a Friday afternoon -- Duncan said he had to scramble to get a bond hearing for Mercer so he could make it to work Saturday morning.
Duncan said a courtesy summons would've been appropriate.
A text message from Police Chief Kelvin Waites to Capt. Nelson Brown sent the morning of July 1 asks, "did we make an attempt to get Mercer to turn himself in?"
"I know they went by his house couple times But never made contact with him," was Brown's reply.