12/10/2005

Ga. police handcuff, cite man for selling subway token

The Associated Press

ATLANTA- Transit police handcuffed and cited a man who sold a $1.75 subway token to another rider who was having trouble with a token vending machine. He vows to fight the citation in court.

Transit authority spokeswoman Jocelyn Baker said Friday that the officer "acted within the law" after he spotted Donald Pirone, 42, selling the token Nov. 30 inside the West End subway station

Instead of giving Pirone a warning, the officer decided to handcuff him and give him the misdemeanor citation under a 1992 state law that bars passengers from selling Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority tokens, she said.

"What you've got to keep in mind is that fare abuse is a chronic problem," Baker said. "It costs MARTA millions of dollars every year."

Baker acknowledged that Pirone sold the token at face value and did not make a profit. But the law is the law, she said.

"There are customer service phones for people who are having trouble getting tokens out of the machine," Baker said. "The fact is, our officer acted within the law."

As for the handcuffs, Baker said the officer felt they were necessary.

"Our officers do that for their own safety," Baker said.

There was no answer Friday at a phone listed to a Donald V. Pirone in Atlanta. Pirone told WSB Radio that he was just trying to help a fellow passenger out who was having trouble with a token machine. He said he will fight the citation but will have to ride MARTA to court because he doesn't have a car.

"I gave him a token and, I guess out of his generosity, he gave me the money for it," Pirone said. "But I didn't ask him for money."

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