MANHATTAN CRIMINAL COURT — A Christian ministry student who was arrested on his first-ever visit to the Big Apple after a cop found a one-inch blade in his pocket during a stop-and-frisk was sentenced to two days of community service and a fine Monday.
Considering that Clayton Baltzer, 19, starts his annual summer gig working with special needs children at the Arrowhead Bible Camp near his Pennsylvania college on Friday, Baltzer will likely complete his sentence by Saturday night.
On the Inside first reported Baltzer's story Monday morning just before the city’s most unassuming perpetrator appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court along with scores of real miscreants in handcuffs.
Baltzer and his relieved father, Tim, drove 11 hours on Sunday to get here from Columbus, Ohio home in time for Clayton Baltzer's court date. They said they could not wait to pay the $125 fine and get back in their car for the 500 mile ride home.
Hell will likely freeze over before they return.
Baltzer's daytrip to Manhattan with his classmates from Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Clarks Summit, Penn., on March 27 was supposed to conclude, after visits to the Ground Zero, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Times Square, at Lincoln Center. Instead, it ended up in a Times Square jail, where Baltzer was hit with weapons possession charges for carrying two small knives, one he used to shave down sticks so kids at his camp could roast marshmallows.
An undercover cop spied a clasp dangling from Baltzer's pocket that connected to a one-inch pocket knife. After he was stopped and frisked, cops repeatedly flicked the knife to see if it would open through centrifugal force. That would make it a gravity knife, and illegal. After several tries, cops flicked the knife open, and Baltzer was arrested.
That's the same thing that happened to Michael Hotwagner, 30, a Muskegon, Mich., native who teaches Spanish in Greenpoint.
Hotwagner, who coincidentally was also in court Monday with Baltzer, was stopped and frisked in Union Square en route to his class when another undercover cop spied a clasp hanging out of his pocket that was connected to a utility tool that had a small blade.
The cop accosted him, asking what was in his pocket.
“A knife,” he recounted to On the Inside. “What’s the issue?
“You can’t have that,” the undercover said.
Hotwagner apologized and explained that he did not know he could not travel the subway system with the tool in his pocket.
“I have to go teach,” he said.
“No, you’re coming with me,” the officer said.
He, of course, became frightened. The prospect of an arrest record threatened his career.
The arresting officer gave the knife to another cop who had bulging biceps. “Hey, test it,” the first cop said.
After several attempts, the muscular cop flick the blade free, which made it an illegal gravity knife.
“The big strong guy did this crazy move with his arm and it came out,” Hotwagner said. “It would have been nice if I was doing something wrong.”
After a couple of court appearances, he was sentenced Monday to one day of community service.
Sound like a pattern?
Like Hotwagner, Baltzer spent a few hours in holding cells, where fingerprinted and their mug shots were taken after cops flicked their small blades open.They gave up days of work and expenses to get to court before being given a chance to plead to a violation and sentenced to community service, and have their records eventually expunged.
Current and former police officials told On the Inside that most cops agree that arresting these kids is a waste of police time, runs up arrest numbers, and that Baltzer and Hotwagner should have been given a ticket and let go. But, sources said many police supervisors are willing to do anything other than take a zero-tolerance stance because they fear incurring the wrath of NYPD brass.
But for Baltzer, he just wanted to move on.
“I am just relieved its over,” he said, as he prepared to leave the city. Probably for good.