An Amish man was found not guilty in Logan District Court on Friday morning by a jury of six individuals. John Mast was cited on Oct. 8, 2015, in the city of Auburn for violating an ordinance that requires a collection device on all large animals that travel through the city limits.
Mast is one of many that has been through the court system in the last year for violating the ordinance, however, he is the first to be found not guilty. Two other Amish individuals were found guilty last year for the violation and went to jail for not paying their fines and court costs.
Mast represented himself during the trial. He had very little to say other than he felt the Amish were being discriminated against.
“This rule was not made till the Amish came,” said Mast. “We see it as discrimination to keep the Amish away.”
Auburn Mayor Mike Hughes was shocked at the verdict.
“I am obviously disappointed in the verdict,” said Hughes, who is concerned this will set a precedent and open a can of worms. “I’m not really sure what happen. I can assume by the verdict that we obviously didn’t clarify to the jurors the violation was for not having a device, instead where the stop was made.”
The ordinance states that no person should allow an animal under his or her control to be upon public property, including streets within the city limits of Auburn, or upon the property of another, absent the consent of the owner or occupant of the property, without some device for the removal and/or containment of the animals excrement.
Auburn Police Chief Larry Jones testified he has seen Mast traveling down Wilson Avenue when he noticed he did not have a collection devise on his buggy. Mast then traveled onto Main Street, finally stopping at the Minute Mart parking lot in the center of town. Jones followed Mast into the parking lot where he got out of his police cruiser and approached him informing of the violation.
The Minit Mart parking lot is considered private property.
A video of the stop was entered into evidence by the Commonwealth and shown in court. Mast became argumentative when told he was in violation of the ordinance and would be cited. When Jones tried to talk to him, Mast and another Amish man walked away and went into the store. Jones called for backup and waited for the two men to come out.
“Are you ready to talk to me now?” asked Jones of Mast.
“I’m about tired of this,” said Mast.
“I’m just doing my job,” replied Jones.
“Did you go to church Sunday?” Mast asked Jones, who relied he did. “You sure need to listen to the preacher,” said Mast.
A back and forth conversation occurred with Mast continuing to be argumentative to Jones, who told Mast he needed to stop saying he could take him to jail for disorderly conduct.
“I’m trying to be nice,” said Jones to Mast.
Jones went on to explain to Mast there were some in the Amish community that had the devices and were complying. Mast said that was a lie and stated that one Amish individual just had a leather strap for show.
When asked for his name and address by Jones, Mast refused. “That’s okay, I know who you are,” Jones said.
Hughes testified the City of Auburn had tried to work with their Amish neighbors over the issue of manure on the streets for over eight years. He said there had been many meetings between the Amish and himself, as well as previous administrations to try and come up with a compromise to the problem.
“At first the city allowed a choice to either pick up the manure or have a collection device, but after that didn’t work it was changed to just a collection device,” said Hughes, adding a lot of the Amish now use a device while traveling through the city, but some still do not.
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.