PJ vs Shoe Lady Cropped.jpg
Hero hit by heel
City attorney Pete Holmes announced Wednesday he will not pursue assault charges against Phoenix Jones for the costumed crusader's infamous pepper


Phoenix Jones and Pete Holmes Debate Pepper Spray and Good Samaritan Laws

PJ vs Shoe Lady Cropped.jpg
Hero hit by heel
City attorney Pete Holmes announced Wednesday he will not pursue assault charges against Phoenix Jones for the costumed crusader's infamous pepper spray incident. That prompted a public exchange between the two men about whether legislators should change the state's "Good Samaritan" law and/or prohibit civilians from carrying large cans of pepper spray.

Holmes' announcement -- his second "no charges" decree of the day after letting SPD officer James Lee off the hook for kicking a defenseless teenager-- took Jones (a.k.a. Ben Fodor) to task for his actions on the morning of Sunday, October 9. The self-proclaimed superhero ran headlong into a group of people that appeared to be fighting and discharged a can of pepper spray. Video of the incident released by Jones shows the enraged reaction of several onlookers hit by the spray.

"Mr. Fodor is no hero, just a deeply misguided individual," Holmes said in an official statement. "He has been warned that his actions put himself in danger, and this latest episode demonstrates that innocent bystanders can also be harmed."

Holmes used the occaison to lobby the state legislature to restrict the amount of pepper spray that people can carry in public, claiming that Jones wielded "far more than can be justified solely for self-defense purposes."

The city attorney also warned Jones that although "proof problems" prevented him from facing four counts of misdemeanor assault, a citizen could easily sue in civil court because "our state's Good Samaritan statutes are designed to protect individuals who happen upon--rather than actively seek out--opportunities to render assistance to others, without expectation of compensation."

"These laws are not designed to protect a branded, costumed character, his roving video crew, or their copyrighted videos from the reach of tort plaintiffs," Holmes noted.

Jones responded to Holmes statement with an official statement of his own. Posted in caps lock on his Facebook page, Jones defended his actions and jabbed the city attorney for advocating tighter pepper spray laws while police from Seattle to Irvine are dousing Occupy protestors with the stuff.

"Pepper spray is defined as a self defense tool and is very hard to use offensively," Jones writes. "I hope somewhere in that law there is more protection for elderly and peaceful protestors."

Jones remains adamant that, at least in his mind, he was coming to the rescue. That alone probably would have been enough to save the superhero's skin in court. Defense attorneys and a former prosecutor explained to Seattle Weekly how the the Good Samaritan law would have applied in Jones' case:

"A person is entitled to act on appearances in defending himself or another, if that person believes in good faith and on reasonable grounds that he or another person is in actual danger, although it afterward might develop that the person was mistaken as to the extent of the danger. Actual danger is not necessary."
Of course, SPD alleges that Jones discharged his pepper spray in public at least two other times over the course of the evening before he was arrested. Whether that qualifies as the actions of a Good Samaritan are probably up for debate.

A recent video of Jones breaking up a fight in Belltown suggests that he has stopped carrying pepper spray, at least for the time being. Jones and his pals chased away a pair of brawlers before calling police and waiting for them to arrive on the scene. When the cop showed up a few minutes later, Jones told him, "I don't even care about the crime. I just want you to know I didn't pepper spray nobody. I didn't even have it on me."

Jones concluded his public statement by criticizing SPD and the city attorney for arresting him, and vowing not to change his ways.

"I think my arrest and de-masking was more of an attempt to get me to stop patrolling than to actively seek justice," Jones writes. "I want everyone to know that I have no intention of stopping."

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