Bruce Redwine had seen enough. After years of watching a Fairfax County parking enforcement officer slap tickets on his customers’ cars for expired tags or inspection stickers, usually as the cars were awaiting state inspection or repair at his Chantilly shop, he snatched the latest ticket out of Officer Jacquelyn D. Hogue’s hand and added some profane commentary on top.
Hogue responded by having Redwine arrested for felony assault on a police officer, though she is not a police officer. And when the case first went to court, a Fairfax judge sentenced Redwine to four days in jail.
Redwine appealed, got a jury trial last month and was acquitted within minutes. But the bitterness he feels at having to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees, plus being booked, fingerprinted and photographed at the county jail, with no prior record, is shared by numerous fellow auto repair operators at the Mariah Business Center on Sullyfield Circle off Route 28.
They don’t understand why Fairfax police have zealously sought to enforce laws on expired tags or inspections, mainly on drivers who are making the effort to get their cars into compliance, while on private property. Hogue’s appearance in the industrial park often set off a scramble to hide customers’ cars inside the shops, the shop owners said.
“They’re harassing the small businesses trying to make it in this tough economy,” said Ray Barrera of A&H Equipment Repair. He estimated that his customers’ vehicles had been hit with $60,000 worth of fines and fees over the past six years.
Fairfax police said they are only on the property because of a letter issued by Mariah’s property management firm in 2009, specifically granting police permission to enforce county traffic, parking and towing ordinances.
“Why aren’t they barking up their property manager’s tree?” asked Lt. Brooke Wright, a Fairfax police spokeswoman. “That is their business. Without that letter, we have no authority — none — to be in that parking lot.”
Redwine’s attorney, Dickson Young, and others say that the police could use discretion in ticketing vehicles that are not illegally parked and that are taken to the repair shops to try to bring them into compliance with the law — particularly Redwine’s customers waiting for a state inspection.
“There’s no law against using common sense,” Young said. He said the property management wouldn’t know or care about outdated tags or inspections.
But the police said Mariah’s authorizing letter makes no distinction between parking violations and tickets for expired registration or inspection stickers. “The minute they stop enforcing,” Wright said, “they’re going to get calls from the property manager.”
The property manager, J.R. Motz of Commercial Condominium Management, declined to answer questions. Repair shop operators, who rent from owners of individual units in the industrial park, said their owners claim that they are powerless to change or withdraw the authorizing letter because they are not members of Mariah’s condo association board of directors. Motz would not disclose which owners are on the condo board.
Hogue declined to be interviewed.
For now, in the weeks since Redwine’s recent assault trial, there has been quiet. Police say Hogue has been assigned to a different part of the county.
But dating to about 2008, numerous repair shop operators say they received near-daily visits from Hogue to ticket their customers. Redwine said one customer dropped his car off over a weekend, and when Redwine arrived on Monday morning, the car had two tickets on it.
As with other shop owners, “in order to retain my clientele, I would eat the ticket,” Redwine said. “I don’t want to give them a bill for repairs and add on $50 for a ticket. You think they’ll come back?” In one month, Redwine said, he paid $2,200 worth of tickets.
If a car has unpaid tickets, it can be towed. Barrera said he questions customers before they bring in a vehicle, asking whether their plates and inspection are current and whether they have outstanding tickets. “People ask me, ‘Are you a police officer? If my truck was perfect, why would I bring it to you?’ ”
Redwine, who has been operating Chantilly Service Center for 21 years, said he does the state inspections and emissions tests first thing in the morning, to make sure no expired stickers are visible. But “cars sometimes fail the emissions test,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not just a simple fix. ”
Shoaib Massoud, who has been running A-Zee Auto Repair for 15 years, said: “The cars are coming here for repair. I talk to her [Hogue] politely, but no good. We are suffering, for sure.”
When someone spotted Hogue on the Mariah property, “all work would cease,” Redwine said. “Everybody would jump to get a car inside. At some points, we couldn’t do any work.”
It was a moment like that, one afternoon in October 2014, that landed Redwine and Hogue in court. He said she ticketed a Mercedes with an expired tag even after it had been pulled into his shop.
As the parking officer walked with the ticket extended in front of her, “I swiped it from her hand,” Redwine said. “We had a few choice words. I didn’t touch her.”
Hogue returned to her vehicle but did not leave. A few minutes later, uniformed officers arrived, and one told Redwine, “She said you touched her.”
Hogue wrote in her report that Redwine “squeezed my hand and twisted it” and that it later began to swell. An officer took pictures of Hogue and her hand. A number of officers and supervisors arrived on the scene, the reports show, but they elected not to charge Redwine with felony assault.
Instead, Wright said, Hogue was advised to see a magistrate and obtain a misdemeanor charge. Four days later, she did. But the magistrate, Fred Bubenhofer, issued a felony warrant for assault on a police officer.
Redwine subsequently drove to the county jail, was handcuffed, booked, fingerprinted and photographed. “I’d made it 57 years without any arrest record until that,” Redwine said.
When Fairfax prosecutors looked at the case before Redwine’s preliminary hearing in January, they acknowledged that a parking enforcement officer did not fit the legal definition of a law enforcement officer and reduced the charge to a misdemeanor. But when Redwine went to trial in general district court in April, Judge Ian O’Flaherty convicted him and sentenced him to four days in jail.
Redwine appealed to circuit court and had a jury trial on Sept. 9. Young said that Hogue did not testify that Redwine had grabbed or twisted her hand and that the photos from that day did not show any injury. The jury was out about 20 minutes before finding Redwine not guilty, court records show.
Young said Redwine offered to apologize to Hogue for his angry comments to her, in exchange for dismissing the charge, but Hogue declined. He said the officers who testified “thought it was ridiculous that it was being prosecuted so vigorously. . . . Is this the kind of investigation we pay police to do?”
Redwine said: “The stress has been phenomenal. I’ve lost 20 pounds and countless hours of sleep, I’ve lost customers and money for legal fees. They took her word and railroaded me.”
Redwine filed an internal affairs complaint against Hogue, but it remained open until after the criminal case was over. Wright said she did not expect Hogue to be found in violation.