WINTHROP - A littering ticket that left a 12-year-old girl in tears, her mother with a $124 citation, and the Winthrop marshal who issued it with a mountain of hate mail was dismissed Thursday.
Marina Brownlee; her friend Julia Schrum, 12; and her 9-year-old sister, Brooklyn Brownlee were passing out health department stickers on Sept. 18 when a neighbor called police to complain that they littered outside her house.
The stickers, put out by the Washington Department of Health, are reminders to stop the spread of germs by washing your hands. City Clerk Michelle Gaines asked the girls to pass some out to residents. Brownlee's mother, Natalie Crace, is deputy clerk.
"You were out there doing something that was apparently a community service. You were doing a good thing," Winthrop Municipal Judge David Ebenger told the girls after dismissing the citation issued to Crace.
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The judge said it appears the girls got caught up in a neighborhood dispute, and the woman who called believed another girl in the neighborhood who she'd had problems with left the stickers to harass her.
Just how many stickers the girls left at the woman's house was not determined. Brownlee testified that she put one sticker at the woman's door and one on a table under an ashtray, while Schrum put one in each of the cars.
"The reason we left four at their house is, they have company very often. We wanted to leave some extra in case they wanted to give some to their friends," Brooklyn told the judge.
Crace said the woman gave her all four of the stickers when they went to her house the next day to sort out what happened. She said they all hugged, and agreed to be neighborly.
Winthrop Marshal David Dahlstrom said the woman told him she gave four or five to Crace, and had thrown three or four more away.
Ebenger said regardless of how many stickers were left, it was apparent the girls did not intentionally litter.
The judge also said Dahlstrom, who issued the ticket, was only doing his job. He commended the marshal for deciding not to send the matter to juvenile court, and instead issue the ticket to Brownlee's mother. The girls are too young to get a municipal court ticket, the marshal said.
Dahlstrom said he received hate mail after the story that he had issued a littering ticket to a 12-year-old girl became national news, even though the ticket was actually issued to her mother. The ticket caused tension at Winthrop Town Hall, where Dahlstrom and Crace both work.
Ebenger said he's hoping that Thursday's hearing will clear up the dispute for all involved.
"If the full story gets told, then the right thing gets done," he said. "Let's close the door on the littering."