Free speech wins

Local man escapes fine for panhandling

A Chico man charged with aggressive panhandling last fall escaped a fine on Monday, Jan. 27, when his charge was reduced to panhandling, which is not illegal. Thomas “Digger” Lake (pictured) was issued a ticket Oct. 9 while seated at the corner of First and Main streets in downtown Chico while holding a cardboard sign that read “The right not to be Cen-Cerd! Spare-change?”

A Chico Police officer cited him for sitting within five feet of a crosswalk, which is a violation of the city’s “Aggressive and Deceptive Solicitation” law. However, Lake maintains he was not within that distance.

The aggressive-panhandling law was adopted 10 years ago and crafted to try to adhere to the Constitutional right to free speech. Butte County Superior Court Commissioner Leonard Goldkind ruled in favor of Lake, who sits downtown with his cat, Spot.