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Ocean City Settles With Violinist

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BALTIMORE (AP) — Ocean City is settling a free-speech challenge of the town’s noise ordinance by a boardwalk violinist.

The Daily Record reports that the resort town will pay William Hassay Jr. $137,000 and drop the noise ordinance.

Hassay had been playing his violin on the boardwalk since 1995 but stopped in June 2012 when a police officer told him to turn down the volume or face possible punishment of up to three months in prison and a $500 fine.

A suit filed in federal court on Hassay’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland argued that the prohibition on amplified sound that is audible 30 feet away violated performers’ First Amendment rights. The town responded that the ordinance was a reasonable and constitutional limit on the growth of amplified sound on the Boardwalk.

In July, U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Lipton Hollander granted a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the ordinance that she concluded was likely unconstitutional until trial. The settlement imposes a permanent injunction, removing the need for trial.

The settlement includes $21,000 for Hassay’s lost income, $105,000 in attorneys’ fees and $11,000 in court costs, according to the ACLU.

“Today, the First Amendment forecast for Ocean City looks bright and sunny,” Deborah Jeon, legal director of ACLU of Maryland, said in a statement. “We are thrilled that musicians will no longer be silenced by Ocean City’s unconstitutional sound restriction and hopeful that the town will honor all performers’ free speech rights in the future.”

(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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