As the MTA gears up to raise fares, two stories about straphangers’ attempts at outsmarting the swipe have made the news this week.
First up is a tale of forgery. Three and a half years ago, police arrested Jonathan Mattocks after watching him pick up discarded MetroCards, bend them and swipe on through. A past transit-offender, Mattocks was convicted of a felony and sentenced to jail time. That’s where his appeal comes in. Per Sewell Chan:
On appeal, his defense lawyers made a novel argument. They conceded that Mr. Mattocks broke the law, but said that he should have been charged with a misdemeanor, unauthorized sale of transportation services, rather than forgery.
Bending a MetroCard does not make it “falsely altered” — as the law defines forgery — “because the damage does not create value on a worthless card, it merely prevents the turnstile computer from determining that the card has no value,” the defense lawyers maintained, according to a summary of their arguments in a court ruling issued on Thursday.
In that ruling, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, rejected that logic and upheld Mr. Mattocks’s conviction for forgery.
Amusingly enough, Chan also notes that the decision contains detailed instructions in how to perpetuate a MetroCard forgery. “The judge,” he writes, “devoted her first section to explaining the coding of the cards, how they are read, and how, in essence, to foil the system.” That little tidbit of information certainly won’t help the MTA combat what they say are over 250,000 annual instances of MetroCard fraud.
Mattock, by the way, had already served his two-year prison sentence while awaiting the outcome of his appeal.
In other fare-jumping news, two Daily News reporters stationed themselves near an emergency exit and counted the number of fare-jumpers entering through what should be a locked exit. At two stations, the reporters watched numerous straphangers enter through the open doors .When the reporters confronted the station clerks about the issue, the clerk quickly alarmed the door and alleged it had been armed the entire time.
One fare-beater even had the audacity to defend his actions: “Since when is walking through an open door breaking the law? If that clerk doesn’t care enough to close the door, why shouldn’t I go through?”