No speedy trial in 25-year-old ticket

Duane Anderson admits he was speeding when he was pulled over by a state trooper while on his way to the Buffalo Art Show.

Yet Anderson, a former trustee and deputy mayor with the village of Lakewood, was left almost speechless after he received a letter in the mail Dec. 31 notifying him of the unresolved ticket — not because he had received it in general, but that the incident in question happened more than 25 years ago.

“Everyone I told at first thought it was a joke,” Anderson told the newspaper.

The letter from the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles told Anderson his driver’s license was about to be suspended for failure to appear in Stockton Town Court. It took several calls to the DMV and town of Stockton to get to the bottom of the mysterious notice. Anderson’s wife, Marian, was told by the Stockton court clerk that a “box of old (traffic) tickets” had been discovered and were forwarded to the state DMV’s office.

Apparently in that box was a copy of Anderson’s speeding ticket, which he received in 1993 while traveling Route 380 in Stockton on his way to Buffalo for the art show.

“Somebody just left a box of old tickets, and they were just discovered and sent to the state DMV,” Anderson said he was told by the town.

The Lakewood resident recalls receiving the ticket at the time and mailing it back to the town of Stockton. He said he pleaded not guilty to the infraction, and assumed everything had been taken care of when he never heard back from the town or DMV. Furthermore, Anderson said he has renewed his driver’s license at least twice since the incident yet was never told of the unresolved traffic violation.

The director of public information with the New York State Office of Court Administration said Tuesday he would look into the decades-old re-emergence of the traffic tickets. As of press time Friday, he has not responded.

Anderson and his wife went to court Jan. 14 and were surprised to find another half-dozen local residents who also received a notice of past-due court appearances. The Andersons said one traffic ticket was more than 35 years old.

However, one person not present in court that day was Jaret Strickland, who said he recently received a notice to appear in court for a traffic violation that occurred in 1999. Strickland, who said the violation was for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, said he spoke to an attorney who advised him that the statute of limitations had long run out on the matter.

“When I received it I thought, ‘What is this?” Strickland said of the 20-year-old summons. “I threw it out — It was from a long time ago. I pleaded guilty and paid the fine (when it happened).”

According to the Andersons, a Chautauqua County assistant district attorney recommended the tickets be dismissed, and Stockton Town Justice Mark Cunningham reportedly agreed. Cunningham could not be reached at the town court’s office recently while a call to the District Attorney’s Office was not returned.

And though Cunningham and the ADA were “nice” about the incident, Marian Anderson said she was baffled by the lack of an explanation or an apology.

“Nobody bothered to explain what happened or that they were sorry,” she said.

“The clerk was so flippant about the whole thing. … It was stressful.”

“Everyone kept telling me not to worry about, but you never know what’s going to happen,” Anderson added.