Gabriel Ferrari, 64, who was evicted from his West Asheville home in February and arrested March 3 for trespassing at City Hall, is representing himself in a jury trial on the charge today in Buncombe County Superior Court.
Buncombe County officials foreclosed on Ferrari’s property at 22 Sulphur Springs Road for not paying $3,123 in property taxes for the tax years of 2003 through 2007. Asheville city officials also had a 20-year battle with Ferrari over city code violations regarding his home and livestock, including goats and pigeons, on his property. Through the years, Ferrari cobbled together a distinctive structure known for its odd angles, corrugated metal and turrets.
On March 3, Ferrari arrived outside City Hall and police arrested him. Police said Ferrari entered city property without notification, a violation of a city ban on Ferrari stepping foot on city property without an appointment. A WLOS-TV camera crew caught the arrest on videotape.
Outside the courtroom this morning, Ferrari said “the fake arrest” was part of a pattern of abuse and discrimination he’s faced at the hands of government officials. Dressed in camouflage pants, military belt and a green shirt emblazoned with a Foundation for North American Wild Sheep patch, Ferrari prepared to press his case in court before a jury and Judge James L. Baker.
Assistant District Attorney Meredith Pressley is presenting the government’s case.
Proceedings were held up because the court reporter couldn’t make it to work. But court got underway about 11 a.m., with Pressley calling Asheville Police Department Capt. Tim Splain and Det. Forrest Weaver as witnesses.
Splain testified that he accompanied Assistant City Attorney Curt Euler to Ferrari’s home on Sulphur Springs Road in Aug. 2, 2006, as Euler hand-delivered a “ban letter” to Ferrari. Splain said both he and Euler told Ferrari that he was not allowed on city property without an appointment made through the city attorney’s office.
“One of the reasons these letters were delivered to you was because of your erratic behavior at City Council meetings and you were putting city employees in fear,” Splain said as Ferrari cross-examined him on the witness stand. Splain added that he had SWAT team members watching the meeting because of safety concerns. Splain said other paperwork delivered to Ferrari that day notified him that he was out of compliance with city codes regarding livestock and junk vehicles on his property. Splain said the policy regarding Ferrari’s city property visitation remained in effect the day he was arrested in March.
Weaver testified that he was standing inside City Hall on March 3 working a security detail when he saw Ferrari approach the building. Weaver said a passerby entered the building and told him that Ferrari wanted to talk with him. Weaver said he walked outside.
“He demanded at that time to see the mayor and the city manager. I told him he was not allowed on the property, and that he had to make an appointment. He again demanded to see the mayor and the city manager. I told him that if he came on city property, he would be arrested. He again demanded to see the mayor and stepped up onto the stairs of City Hall, and I arrested him,” Weaver told the court. “He referred to me as Nazi, Gestapo, just ranting and raving. At that time, WLOS arrived and he again became very loud.”
The court adjourned for lunch and will return to session at 2 p.m.