The Town of Hudson, New Hampshire is paying out nearly $40,000 as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union over alleged harassment by police over panhandling.
About $8,000 will go to plaintiff Jeffrey Pendleton who says his first amendment rights were violated when police forced him to stop panhandling and issued him a ticket. Pendleton worked a minimum wage job for years until 2013 when, according to his attorney, his marriage fell apart and his life unraveled. Pendleton was living in a tent and started panhandling to survive.
ACLU legal director Gilles Bissonnette says Hudson police would often force Pendleton, who was holding a sign saying he was homeless and that anything would help, to stop what he was doing and, at one point, even issued him a citation for not having a permit.
Bissonnette argues that the statue doesn't require a permit for this type of soliciting, and that panhandling on public property is legal under state and local laws.
This lead to the ACLU filing a suit on Pendleton's behalf in August 2014, claiming that from 2011 to 2014 on at least 18 different occasions, Hudson police told panhandlers they were breaking the law.
Hudson Town Administrator Stephen Malizia says this is all a misunderstanding.
"We have some solicitation ordinance that requires folks who solicit door-to-door to get permits from the police department," he said.
Last week, the town settled with the ACLU, agreeing to pay $37,500 in damages, but still denying any wrongdoing.
Pendleton is still reportedly living in a homeless shelter, and necn wasn't able to track him down for comment; however, Hudson residents say his case makes a bold statement about First Amendment rights.