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City of Seattle
Ed Murray, Mayor

SUBJECT: Phoenix Jones will not be charged with assault

11/23/2011  3:00:00 PM
Kimberly Mills  (206) 684-8602

Ben Fodor, aka Phoenix Jones, will not be charged with misdemeanor assault, City Attorney Pete Holmes said Wednesday.

Early on Oct. 9 Seattle police officers arrested Fodor, 23, on four counts of assault for pepper-spraying a group of people near First Avenue and Columbia Street. Fodor initially approached the group as they appeared to be involved in a physical altercation. In an attempt to break up the fight, Fodor discharged a large can of pepper spray into the group.

Proof problems compelled the decision not to charge Fodor, Holmes said.

Holmes’ Criminal Division staff located and spoke with two of the four alleged victims. However, the two men at the heart of the alleged fight ran from the scene, and attempts to identify and interview them have been unsuccessful. Based upon the available information, Holmes said it is unlikely a jury would find beyond a reasonable doubt that Fodor intentionally sprayed all of the people at the scene.

Complicating the investigation was the avowed explanation by Fodor that he was coming to the aid of some of the people involved in the altercation. State law allows a person to use force when coming to the aid of someone that he or she reasonably believes is about to be injured. The force used may not be more than necessary to affect the lawful intended purpose.

“However,” Holmes emphasized, “Mr. Fodor is no hero, just a deeply misguided individual. He has been warned that his actions put himself in danger, and this latest episode demonstrates that innocent bystanders can also be harmed."

“Looking ahead,” Holmes continued, “I ask our Legislature to prohibit individuals from carrying the large quantity of pepper spray employed by Mr. Fodor—far more than can be justified solely for self-defense purposes.Finally, I urge Mr. Fodor to consult legal counsel regarding his own potential personal civil liability if he persists with his vigilante alter ego. Our state’s Good Samaritan statutes are designed to protect individuals who happen upon—rather than actively seek out—opportunities to render assistance to others, without expectation of compensation. These laws are not designed to protect a branded, costumed character, his roving video crew, or their copyrighted videos from the reach of tort plaintiffs.”

Police Chief John Diaz added, “Our position has been very consistent and clear on this. Too often situations are made worse when someone inserts themselves into a volatile situation unnecessarily. Call 911, be a good witness, and let the officers handle the situation.”

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