Anaheim unexpectedly dismissed charges Wednesday against a West Hollywood man accused of illegally distributing handbills because prosecutors could not find the police officer who had ticketed him.
Prosecutors had been pursuing the case against Paul Dawson for months, but did not realize until Tuesday that Officer Karen Thompson had left the department several years ago and could not be found, Assistant City Atty. Mark Logan said.
"This has no bearing on the merits of the case," Logan said. "It's difficult to go forward when you don't have a witness. It's unfortunate, but these things do happen."
Dawson's public defender, Nicholas S. Thompson, said he was before Judge Ron Kreber on another matter when prosecutors offered to dismiss charges.
Thompson said the officer is now a schoolteacher. Logan said he had no knowledge of that.
"The whole thing was kind of odd," Thompson said.
Dawson, 46, said he is pleased that the charges have been dropped but disappointed that he was unable to challenge the constitutionality of the handbill ordinance. Dawson contended that the ordinance is illegal because it restricts dissemination of information and said he may challenge the ordinance anyway in federal court.
In 1983, Dawson was ticketed for placing flyers under car windshields at a Greek festival in Anaheim. Anaheim's 48-year-old ordinance allows the distribution of literature on front doors and face to face but prohibits placing literature on car windshields because it often ends up as litter.