March 09, 2006

Parking Crusader Under Attack (with updates)

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express (subscribe) - with updates from Ragged Edge staff.

Update from the April 6, 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer story, Eagles pair take lumps for parking (Some excerpts from reporter Sam Wood's story):

Municipal Judge Charles Sprigman ordered McNabb to pay a $256 fine and $33 in court costs. Trotter, initially a no-show, appeared after the judge threatened to suspend the linebacker's driver's license. Trotter pleaded guilty to two counts of parking in handicapped spots and will pay $512 in fines and $66 in costs. ...

McNabb's attorney, Raymond Williams, scrambled to contest charges, but the result was about as dismal as the Eagles' last season.

First Williams said there was no way to prove the photographs had been taken Nov. 28 ....

[Then] He questioned whether the section where McNabb's Lincoln Mark LT had been berthed was reserved for the disabled. ....

Williams then presented a doctor's note stating that McNabb had been undergoing surgery for a sports hernia on that date.

At last, McNabb's head of security, Troy Oglesby, took the stand and took the sack.....Oglesby told the judge that state troopers had directed him into the overcrowded parking lot, and that a restaurant employee had told him to park in the spot. He argued that the handicapped sign had been improperly posted. ... Oglesby... compared McNabb to an endangered marine mammal that had been caught in a net set by Cottrell for common fish.

The judge accepted that McNabb was not the driver that night but said: "I find under New Jersey statute 39:4-139.5 that he is in fact the owner, and the statute says he is jointly responsible."

Trotter arrived almost three hours late. After pleading guilty, he offered Cottrell $200 to support her campaign.

Cottrell said she had refused the offer and suggested he donate the money to a school for handicapped children.... (Read entire story.)

GLASSBORO, NJ, March 9, 2006 --Last August, Maryann Cottrell asked a police officer to issue a citation to a downtown Glassboro businessman that she claimed kept parking in a space reserved for people with disabilities. The man didn't seem to have a disability, and did not have a proper permit.

The officer responded that she could do it herself.

It turns out that New Jersey law allows citizens to report parking violators, and requires police and prosecutors to take the accused drivers to court.

Since then, Cottrell has reported about 300 alleged violations, including cars parked by Philadelphia Eagles stars Donovan McNabb and Jeremiah Trotter.

The mother of a 20-year-old daughter who has autism and is blind, Cottrell takes her camera with her when she runs errands around town, and takes snapshots of cars that appear illegally parked.

Her crusade has made her some enemies.

Cottrell, 53, has been prohibited from setting foot on local school property, along with the restaurant where she spotted the football players' cars. Rowan University officials also banned Cottrell from campus grounds. They claim the ban is for Cottrell's own protection, because of a confrontation she had with several students who had surrounded her car.

For those who call Cottrell a 'parking vigilante' she replies, "Something has to be done."

"Unfortunately, I've been sacrificed to the cause."

Tuesday's Gloucester County Times reported that Rowan University has removed four spaces where Cottrell and fellow crusader Richard Holland turned in dozens of students. The lines have been repainted and the spaces turned into a loading zone. School officials said the decision had nothing to do with Cottrell and Holland.

Friday's Asbury Park Press reported briefly that McNabb and Trotter were additionally cited last week for failing to appear in court.

The editorial in Tuesday's Courier-Post criticized the Eagles players for parking in the wrong spaces, and for missing their court dates: "McNabb and Trotter need to apologize, settle their legal case and then understand that, no matter their reason, it's never OK for them or anyone else to park without a required permit in a handicapped spot."

3/10/06 UPDATE: Cottrell and partner Richard Holland have sued the Glassboro, NJ school district and two teachers who, they say, harassed and intimidated them. The suit, filed under the Americans with Disabilties Act, is using a section of the law that prohibits retaliation against people who are using the ADA. (Read stories "Activists sue Glassboro schools" from the Cherry Hill (NJ) Courier-Post and "Activists for disabled sue school district" from the Gloucester (NJ) County Times.)

Their suit focuses on the fact that the school district now requires Cottrell to make an appointment prior to visiting school grounds.

People continue to condemn Cottrell for her activities. One of them is Yamilet Rivera, a Rowan University student who was cited by Cottrell for parking illegally.

From the Courier-Post:

"I'm a special education teacher and I advocate for people with special needs," said Yamilet Rivera, 24, who was found not guilty for occupying part of a handicapped space in front of the student center in October. "(Cottrell) can be proactive in a much more positive way. She's just harassing people."

"Parking crusader issues tickets, makes enemies in college town" (Newsday)

"Parking-abuse outrage proves hard to curb" (Philadelphia Inquirer)

"Philly pro athletes miss their court date" (Asbury Park Press)

"Eagles set a poor example" (Courier-Post)

"Rowan removes handicap spaces" (Gloucester County Times)

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Posted on March 09, 2006