Musical Miscreant Pleads Guilty To Disturbing Peace In Controversial Case
A plea agreement entered with the Allegan County District Court on Wednesday morning that will completely set aside what otherwise could have been a felony charge of resisting and obstructing a police officer as well as a charge of violating a local city ordinance came as music to the ears of the attorney and family of 18-year-old Gabriel Novak.
A student of classical music at Cleveland Institute of Music, Gabriel was arrested June 28 by local police after being warned several times by police and city officials about his acoustic guitar playing on the sidewalks and in front of stores without a permit.
In the plea bargain Wednesday, Gabriel agreed to plead guilty to the misdemeanor of “disturbing the peace” in exchange for the county prosecutor’s dismissal of the resisting and obstructing felony charge and the dismissal of the city ordinance violation.
Gabriel is to pay fines and cost, but see no probation and no jail time. Furthermore, the judge and prosecutor recommended all charges - including the misdemeanor of disturbing the peace - be set aside provided Gabriel is not involved in any criminal activity for one full year.
If that stipulation is met, Gabriel will not have any criminal record.
“The only reason we accepted this plea is because we are fully confident Mr. Novak will have no run-ins with the law for one year. He is a good young man that has been cooperative through the whole process,” Attorney John Frost, representing Gabriel, told 57th District Court Judge Joseph S. Skocelas, during Wednesday’s proceedings.
“Personally, I feel he did nothing wrong. However, it is in his best interest to accept this plea.”
Asked to comment following the court agreement, William Novak, Gabriel’s father and a law professor at the University of Michigan, spoke on behalf of his son.
“It’s been a horrible experience to us as a family,” he said. “(The charges Gabriel faced) is nothing like we imagined it would be for a conservatory student playing his guitar for children and grandmothers.”
Asked to comment about what had happened to his client’s initial claim that case law permitted him to play on the city’s sidewalks, Frost said, “He (Gabriel) was right all along in terms of exercising his constitutional rights, but ultimately with an offer of full dismissal on the table, we simply couldn’t turn that down.”
Gabriel was arrested by police - the point at which he reportedly resisted a police officer - on a Saugatuck sidewalk following a number of encounters with police officers and city officials in which he was informed he could play at the city’s public parks, but not on the public right-of-ways or in front of stores without first getting city approval.
Gabriel spent the weekend in the Allegan County Jail until he was released after being arraigned on the criminal charges the following Monday in district court.
He posted a $2,100 bond at the time, but got most of that back following Wednesday’s plea agreement after subtracting the total fines and court costs totaling $425.