Baltimore County prosecutors dropped their case Tuesday against a Kingsville community activist who was charged with misdemeanor theft after he removed an estate sale sign from a roadside in Towson.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger said the state agreed to drop the case against Mike Pierce, 70, if he paid $22 to cover the cost of the sign.
"We felt this was a reasonable resolution to the case without wasting judicial resources," Shellenberger said in an email to The Baltimore Sun.
Pierce and his attorney had contended that county code allows citizens to remove illegal signs from public property. Pierce has said he removes thousands of signs a year when they don't meet regulations.
County rules prohibit signs in areas including roadway rights-of-way; many residents consider them a nuisance.
"Mr. Pierce is very happy the state chose not to prosecute the case," defense attorney Andy Alperstein said.
Darren Hahnfeld, owner of the estate sale company iStuff Sellers, had called county police after a January incident in which he saw Pierce take one of his signs from Providence Road near the Beltway in Towson.
Police said they charged Pierce with theft under $100 because he refused to turn the sign over to an officer who visited his home to investigate. The charge carried a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.
Hahnfeld couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Five supporters of Pierce wore "Free Mike!" badges to District Court in Towson on Tuesday, Alperstein said. Three people who were critical of his actions also attended the hearing, he said.
Pierce said he is satisfied with the outcome of his case, but wants county officials to take steps to clarify that citizens are allowed to remove illegal signs and ensure police don't charge others who take similar actions.
In a letter to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz about the case, Pierce wrote: "Numerous people have come forward to support/thank me for what I have been doing and to say that they themselves often remove such signs."
Pierce said he stopped to remove signs from along Belair Road on his way home from the courthouse.