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Man arrested while selling ticket in scalp-free zone


Shane Weinstein says he wasn't trying to turn a profit. He just wanted to sell bleacher seats to Sunday's Orioles game and recoup the $7.50 -- including a TicketMaster service charge -- that each ticket cost.

But by tacking on the $2.50 surcharge, the 21-year-old Columbia man apparently broke the law, even though he was in the designated "scalp-free zone," where fans are allowed to resell tickets up to face value.

An undercover police detective arrested Mr. Weinstein and charged him with ticket scalping, a misdemeanor that carries a fine up to $1,000.

Mr. Weinstein spent more than eight hours in jail before a court commissioner ruled that Detective Dale Wierzbowski had no probable cause for arrest. Mr. Weinstein was released without posting bail, pending an Aug. 4 trial.

"He was very scared at first," Mr. Weinstein's mother, Barbara Weinstein, said of her son's stint in the Southern District lockup. "He kept saying, 'Am I going to get into trouble?' I said, 'You are not going to get into trouble. You did nothing wrong.' "

The Baltimore City Council established the scalp-free zone this month near the ballpark's west side. Except when in the zone, it is illegal to resell a ticket on a street within a mile of the ballpark.

Ms. Weinstein said her son was selling 13 bleacher seat tickets that each cost $5. She bought the tickets through TicketMaster, which adds a $2.50 service charge per ticket.

She said her son did not break the law because he did not make a profit on the resale. And she points out that the $2.50 is clearly marked on the ticket -- and therefore should be considered part of price.

"I was just selling my tickets at face value," said Mr. Weinstein, who works part time at the Howard County library. "I told [buyers] that the service charge was $2.50. This guy just took me to one of the gates and put handcuffs behind my back. It was kind of shocking."

John Maroon, director of public relations for the Orioles, said the law is designed to prevent ticket scalpers from "price gouging" and harassing fans. But he called the Weinstein case one of "extraordinary circumstances. We will look into it and discuss it with the proper people."

In court documents, Detective Wierzbowski said he approached Mr. Weinstein about 11:30 a.m., about 90 minutes before game-time. "I asked how much he was selling them for and he stated, '7.50 a ticket.' He was then placed under arrest," the documents say.

Sixth District City Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi, who sponsored the law prompting the "scalp-free zone," said it applies to the face value of the ticket and does not include any additional fees a private vendor may charge.

Mr. DiBlasi said Mr. Weinstein's arrest is "a good case for a judge . . . It's unfortunate if this guy did time in jail if he thought he was within the letter of the law. I feel sorry for him."

City police backed the arresting officer.

"The price of the ticket was $5," said Agent Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a department spokesman. "The officer acted in good faith and arrested the individual. It is up to the court to decide whether or not the individual was trying to make a profit from scalping the ticket because he was charging $2.50 for the surcharge."

Bernard F. "Buzz" Murphy, director of the city's legislative reference, said the law is clear: It is illegal to resell a ticket for more than the price stated for admission. The service charge doesn't count.

And he said it is against the law for someone not licensed by the state to charge the surcharge. He said Mr. Weinstein could have been charged with violating that law, which carries a maximum penalty of $500 and six months in jail.

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