When 71-year-old pickle ball player Arslan Guney used a permanent marker to paint faded marks on a public track, he never thought it could get him into legal trouble.
But Denver Parks and Recreation quickly banned him from their facilities and contacted police, who issued a warrant for his arrest.
Guney went to police headquarters on March 24, on a charge of criminal wrongdoing. He could have gone to jail for one to three years, but the Denver district attorney’s office decided not to charge him and instead sent the case to mediation.
“Mr. Guney was traumatized by having to surrender himself… [and] is in jail for 10 hours, “said his lawyer Hollynd Hoskins As It Happens host Gillian Findlay.
Denver Parks and Recreation did not respond to a request for comment from As It Happens.
The retiree played regularly and volunteered at the Central Park Recreation Center, which has one of the only gyms in Denver, Colorado that does not have fixed picket balloons. It was also one of the only centers to reopen last fall and launch a pickleball program since coronavirus pandemic restrictions were lifted.
The sport is a mixture of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Pickleballers can play indoors or outdoors, in singles or doubles, on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net. They hit a hard plastic ball with a paddle instead of a rocket.
Staff helped players set up a temporary track by drawing their own “X” marks on the gym floor, indicating where players should lay down yellow markers and outline their playing field.
According to Hoskins, Guney asked Denver Parks and Recreation for more hours and a permanent court. He also taught local youth how to play the game. With all his involvement, staff assigned him the task of drawing a diagram for them – a reference for where they had to make their own marks on the gym floor every morning.
After a pickle ball game on March 14, Guney – by this time the center’s top pickle ball lawyer – saw some of the “X” marks on the gym floor fade. He then went upstairs, asked the staff for a black Sharpie and then drew an “X” or a box on some of the already existing marks.
“He thought he was helping. He thought he had the permission. And that was a big mistake,” she said.
According to the Washington Post, Denver Parks and Recreation accused Guney to infringe on public property and cause damage worth $ 9,344 US ($ 11,666 Cdn), which is the cost of refining the gym floor.
On Tuesday, the Denver District Attorney’s Office issued a statement advising park administrators and the pickle ball player to see each other face-to-face and play ball – figuratively.
“My office did not charge Mr. Arslan Guney with any criminal charges,” said Denver District Attorney Beth McCann.
“On my proposal, the parties will seek to resolve this issue through mediation with a city mediator. I am optimistic that by sitting down and working out a mutually acceptable solution, this matter can be resolved amicably.”
Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview with Hollynd Hoskins produced by Chris Harbord.