Sylvia Stayton was just trying to spare strangers a ticket when she plunked a dime and a nickel into two overdue parking meters.
For what she considered to be a random act of kindness, she got handcuffed and arrested, and on Thursday, she was convicted of a misdemeanor for interfering with an officer trying to ticket overdue cars.
“I tried to do what I thought was the right thing,” the 63-year-old grandmother of 10 said as she left court.
She faces up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine when she is sentenced later this month for obstructing official business.
Jurors acquitted her of misdemeanor disorderly conduct. She had faced up to four months in jail if convicted on both counts.
“She was doing a good deed,” her lawyer, David Scacchetti, told the municipal court jury in closing arguments. “Sylvia Stayton should be congratulated for her act, not punished.”
After the verdict, the lawyer said he would consult with Stayton about an appeal.
Officer Ed Johnson, a 16-year patrol officer, testified Wednesday that he was about to write two tickets Oct. 24 when Stayton put coins into the meters. He said he had warned the woman that she was breaking an obscure ordinance against putting coins into expired meters.
He said she became loud and difficult and refused to identify herself after being arrested.
Stayton took the stand and disputed the officer’s testimony, saying she didn’t mean to stop Johnson from writing the tickets, and was “floored” when Johnson grabbed her arm and put handcuffs on her.
“I said, ‘I can’t believe you’re arresting me for putting money in parking meters,”’ she said. “He said, ‘You’re going to jail.”’
Her brief stay behind bars turned Stayton into something of a folk hero. She received $350 from people donating to her “legal abuse fund.” And a church group that has been anonymously feeding parking meters for years printed up T-shirts that read: “Sylvia Stayton … guilty of kindness.”