This story has been updated to include comments from the lawyer representing Putman. His rebuttal to the allegations are at the bottom of the story.
You can almost hear the exasperated comments from the public. You know, officer, it is time you arrested that joker. People talk that way.
And on Friday, in Winchester, Va., it could be said that police did as suggested. After receiving reports about “a suspicious male dressed as ‘The Joker,’” the Winchester Police Department said it made an arrest.
Police said the man was spotted walking, wearing a black cape and carrying a sword.
Jeremy Putman, 31, was charged with wearing a mask in public, police said. A lawyer representing Putman later asserted that Putman showed no intent to conceal his identity, which is required to support the mask charge.
For the record, the fictional Joker, who showed up in the first issue of the “Batman” comic book almost 77 years ago, has been described as one of the premier figures of villainy. For those familiar with the Joker only through his malevolence on the printed page, he has been a major figure in movies and television episodes featuring Batman.
As for the Virginia anti-mask law, it takes more than merely wearing something over your face to violate the Virginia anti-mask law.
In its report about the incident, police in Winchester gave a reference to the law, Virginia Code 18.2-422, and cited its provisions.
To be in violation, it is necessary for the person to be older than 16, wearing a mask “with the intent to conceal his identity.”
Anti-mask laws have been passed as a deterrent to various kinds of criminal activity. They were also enacted, it appears, as a means of curtailing the activities of such groups as the Ku Klux Klan.
It was not clear Friday night what made callers report the masked man as suspicious. Also unclear was why the police thought he was trying to hide his identity.
However, a lawyer representing Putman said he was not carrying a sword or doing anything wrong. The lawyer, Gerardo M. Delgado said Putman “was walking around town minding his own business.”
Moreover, in an e mail to The Post, Delgado said Putman was not trying to conceal his identity. Violation of the state’s mask law requires intent to conceal identity. “Somone who is trying to hide is not going to walk around town dressed as the joker.” the lawyer said. In addition, he said that he gave police his name and address, and offered his ID.
The lawyer noted also that no other charge was placed against Putman. That indicated, Delgado said, that Putman was doing nothing wrong other than walking around dressed as the Joker.