Homeless Sarasota man arrested for soliciting funds

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SARASOTA-- A 31-year-old homeless man from Sarasota was recently arrested for breaking a city ordinance which is no longer enforceable.

Last week, Sarasota Police arrested  Jon Hill. Hill was standing in the median at the intersection of MLK Boulevard and 301 with a sign reading, "stranded and hungry."

"I was just standing there holding the sign when the cops rolled up on me. I told them I was not doing anything wrong, but he said I was soliciting funds," Hill said on Monday from his lawyer's office.

Police left the scene but returned a short time later, finding Hill still standing in the intersection with the sign.

"They spun me around, took my book bag off of me and put me in handcuffs. That's when I sat on the floor and said I am not going to jail," Hill said.

Hill says he was then roughed up by the officers as he was thrown head first into the police car. Hill does have a gash on his forehead. The police report, however, tells a different story. It says:

The defendant intentionally threw all of his weight forward causing him to slam his face into the window of the patrol car.

Hill was charged with obstruction without violence and soliciting funds.

Over the years, police had every right to arrest someone for soliciting funds, but on January 7th, Sarasota's City Commission voted to suspend the ordinance, until a new one is written.

Here is a copy of the ordinance that is no longer enforceable:

Sec. 23-1. - Soliciting funds, distributing materials to persons traveling in or on vehicles.

It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit or attempt to solicit funds or contributions from persons traveling in or on vehicles, whether such vehicles be actually moving or temporarily stopped. It shall be unlawful for any person to distribute or attempt to distribute literature or other materials to persons traveling in or on vehicles, whether such vehicles be actually moving or temporarily stopped.

"We believe that ordinance is unconstitutional and I think the city has recognized that ordinance is unconstitutional," said Hill's attorney Andrea Mogensen.

Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino told us over the phone that she just learned about this case on Sunday.

"The arrest should not have been made for the charge of solicitation. I don't know why that happened. I will be reviewing the whole incident and why it took place," DiPino said.

DiPino also admitted to us that an email was sent out to everyone in the department, including all of the officers, advising them that the solicitation ordinance was suspended by the City Commission.