Most people facing criminal prosecution would welcome a reduction in charges -- not panhandler Victor Frost.
Frost and his attorney are fighting a motion by the City of Palo Alto to reduce misdemeanor charges against him for allegedly violating the city's sit-lie ordinance.
6rost was given 12 citations for not moving from his panhandling spot in front of Whole Foods Market. The citations were reduced to six earlier this year
A jury deadlocked in April in a previous case against Frost on the same set of charges.
Frost and his attorney have fought the city's ordinance and the citations against him on Constitutional grounds.
Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Lucy Koh threw out a motion to dismiss the trial because the Constitutional and First Amendment challenges were not yet ripe. Frost had to stand trial and be sentenced before such a challenge could be made, she said.
Frost was scheduled to stand trial on Sept. 13. That date has been moved to Oct. 4. But Palo Alto Assistant City Attorney Donald Larkin said the city wants to reduce the misdemeanor charges. A judge and not a jury would decide an infraction case, he said.
"We will move the court to reduce all six counts to infractions. The court has discretion to set the penalty amounts, but we will likely make a recommendation. I don't know what the recommendation will be.
"There are issues in the case that lead us to believe that it would be more advantageous to proceed before a judge. Normally we would not want to impose fines on a panhandler. However, in this case we believe that Victor has the means to pay at least a nominal penalty," he said on Friday.
But Frost wants his day in court. He has said he wants a jury to hear the case and, hopefully, vindicate him. He is challenging the city's assertion that he panhandled sitting on his milk crate too close to a business establishment and violated the city's sit-lie law.
During the first trial, both sides argued about where a business begins. The city claimed it is at the property line; Frost's attorney said it is the door.
The city decided to retry Frost. But Frost now said the city's boundary designation for what determines being in front of a business is arbitrary and is not supported by law.
State law instead should be the standard by which a municipality bases its ordinances and California law uses the entrance of state buildings as that standard, he said.
Under state law, no smoking is allowed within 20 feet of a state building's doorway, and he has photographed signs posted outside the Department of Motor Vehicles that are to that effect.
Frost wants a new trial that would allow that evidence to be admitted and heard by the court.
"Three months ago, I was getting ready for a $1,000 fine, six months in jail or to be picking up trash along the highway every weekend for the next five years," he said, sitting on his milk crate and shielded from the sun by an umbrella.
Frost said he wants the trial to proceed because he was not even sitting within the sit-lie zone.
"It's cruel and unusual punishment to arrest and criminalize a disabled homeless person sitting on a milk crate and begging for money so he can eat," he said, holding a large, handmade sign adorned with with a brightly painted yellow "smiley" flower requested 26 cents for food.
He said he had an argument with his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Roderick O'Connor, about filing the motion on his own at a hearing on Sept. 21. That relationship appears to be reconciled, but representation could further be decided at the hearing on Oct. 4.
Larkin said Frost's attorneys are going to oppose the motion to reduce the charges.
"I am not sure whether they have the legal ability to oppose the motion, but that will be argued on Oct. 4," he said.
Frost's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Roderick O'Connor, could not be reached for comment.