DA withdraws citation in poll-pushing incident - LancasterOnline: News

DA withdraws citation in poll-pushing incident

Appreciative Sam Mecum says ‘appropriate’ police probe would have precluded charge.

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Posted: Sunday, November 28, 2010 12:04 am | Updated: 12:24 am, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

A harassment citation has been withdrawn against a Manheim Township attorney accused of pushing a woman at a polling place on Election Day.

Samuel M. Mecum, 62, told police he was working as a poll watcher and needed to use the restroom, when the woman blocked the hallway inside Grace United Church of Christ, 1947 New Holland Pike.

After telling the woman twice that he intended to use the restroom, Mecum said he simply maneuvered around the woman to get past her.

The 51-year-old woman, an administrative assistant at the church, claimed she was pushed, but police said she was not injured.

On Wednesday, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman announced that "after reviewing the facts and the law of this case," the summary charge was being withdrawn.

Mecum simply intended to use the restroom and did not assault the woman, Stedman said, reiterating that the woman suffered no physical injuries.

Mecum's actions were not criminal, Stedman said, and "the charge of harassment simply does not apply."

The legal definition of harassment, Stedman explained, "requires that someone strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects another to physical contact with an intent to harass, annoy or alarm."

Everyone agrees that "Mecum initiated physical contact with the complaining witness and physically moved her out of his way," Stedman said, but he did not assault the woman.

"It is clear," Stedman said, "that Mr. Mecum's intent was to go to the restroom and not to harass, annoy or alarm."

"The fact that Mr. Mecum might have handled this more appropriately," without physical contact, Stedman noted, "does not render his actions criminal."

"In this case, the charge of harassment simply does not apply," Stedman said.

Reached by phone Saturday afternoon, Mecum said he was very appreciative of Stedman's decision.

He also said that "an appropriate investigation" by police to begin with would not have resulted in a citation.

And Mecum said the incident points out the need to better train people who staff polling places.

Stedman noted that the woman, who has never been identified, is "understandably upset because of what took place," but said she was not wrong in reporting this matter to the police.

Stedman credited First Assistant District Attorney Christopher Larsen for reviewing the case and the law.

Mecum, who lives on Eden Road and was working at the time as a poll watcher for a Democratic candidate in Manheim Township's 12th voting district, at the time called the allegation "just plain silly and unfounded."

"I was wearing a poll watcher certificate, which, of course, entitled me to be in the polling place and to use the facilities at the polling place," Mecum said at the time.

Poll watchers generally observe voting activity inside the polling location.

Mecum, a longtime Democrat, has been practicing law, mostly family law, for nearly four decades, according to newspaper records.

He has run unsuccessfully for county judge. The next election for a judge's slot on the county bench will be in November 2011.

jkelley@lnpnews.com

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