Monday, January 26, 2009

Holy Cow Batman!


How can Batman save the world at this rate!

Busted for wearing a mask in public. Doh!

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TAMPA - Batman has had a slew of enemies over the years – The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman – but in Ybor City last year, he added a new nemesis: Tampa police.

Ybor City's version of the Caped Crusader –his real name is Walsh Ian Nichols – was sitting on a curb eating sushi on Oct. 21 when an officer arrested him for wearing a mask on a public street.

Nichols, 21, failed to use a batarang or fancy equipment to escape the officer. Now he is fighting back in court. His lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss, which will be heard next month.

"Law enforcement approached and detained Nichols who was sitting on the curb eating sushi and wearing traditional Batman apparel, complete with cape and partial mask," the motion to dismiss states. "It was a dark day for the Dark Knight, as he was subsequently placed under arrest for wearing a hood on a public street."

During an interview tonight, Nichols said a sergeant in Ybor City had an issue with his costume and caused him to land _ Pow! Zap! _ in the slammer. The sergeant, Nichols said, had previously advised him to unmask himself and told a fellow officer to arrest him.

"They actually didn't let me finish my sushi,'' Nichols said.

The legal argument outlined in the motion is that the law under which Nichols was arrested is aimed at combating hooded Ku Klux Klan members. The law was crafted to stop crime committers, not crime fighters, the motion states.

According to the motion to dismiss:

A Tampa police sergeant saw a Batman figure drive by on a motorcycle near East 7th Avenue and North 15th Street. The sergeant told Officer Lisa Cordero to track down Nichols, as the sergeant "had apparently advised Nichols to unmask himself three weeks earlier."

Nichols was stopped at East 9th Avenue and North 15th Street and arrested. In addition to the charge of illegally wearing a mask, he was charged with driving a motorcycle without a motorcycle license.

The anti-mask law was created in 1951:

"No person or persons over 16 years of age shall, while wearing any mask, hood, or device whereby any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer, enter upon, or be or appear upon any lane, walk, alley, street, road, highway, or other public way in this state."

The law is part of a section of Florida Statutes relating to criminal anarchy, treason and other crimes against public order.

"The Defendant would note that the Batman character has always fought against such nefarious deeds," the motion states.

Nichols said if investigators search hard enough, they can determine just about anyone is breaking some law.

"There's a godawful lot of laws," he said.

He said he wishes he could go back to the good old days when he could walk around Ybor as the man in the suit.

"I can't go down there really anymore," he said. "Every time I go down there, me and my friends get dirty looks. My friends, meaning, my friend that dresses like Robin."