New York police have summoned a 42-year-old man whose neighbors complained that he was laughing too loud in his apartment. The Long Island resident will now have to appear in court to defend his hearty chuckles, or else face up to 30 days in jail.
Robert Schiavelli, who lives with his mother in a Long Island apartment, has received two summonses because of noise complaints from his neighbor, who claimed he could hear the man laughing from across the driveway.
“I didn’t know it was a crime to laugh out a window,” Schiavelli told the New York Post. The 42-year-old man is mentally disabled and suffers from a number of neurological disorders and seizures. Schiavelli and his mother claim that the neighbor frequently taunted him about his disability, prompting the man to laugh off the insults as a defense mechanism.
“What else are you supposed to do when someone calls you a retard?” the man’s mother told the tabloid.
“It’s absurd,” lawyer Andrew Campanelli said. “My client faces 30 days in jail for laughing.”
Each summons of “disturbing the peace” carries a maximum penalty of 15 days in jail or a $250 fine – and local Judge William Croutier has said that he is “not so inclined” to dismiss the charges.
Susanne Schiavelli, the defendant’s 65-year-old mother, told CBS New York that her son has “an infectious, cute laugh” that “makes me want to laugh”. She said that next-door neighbor Daniel O’Hanian regularly tries to intimidate her son by calling him “a retard” and other offensive names.
Campanelli described his client as a “gentle giant” and said he would “never let him take a plea deal on this”. The attorney is filing a motion to have the tickets dismissed on the grounds that the ordinance regarding the disturbance of peace is “unconstitutionally vague”.
But the O’Hanians are pushing to have the man penalized. The neighbor’s wide defended the summonses, telling 101 WINS that police have conducted an investigation and found legitimate causes to take Schiavelli to court.
“The last time I checked, it was not a crime to laugh – except in Rockville Centre,” Schiavelli told the Post, describing the troubles that his neighborhood has given him.
While New York residents have occasionally been arrested for laughing at cops or in quiet zones like public libraries, Schiavelli’s case is unique. If the judge decides that his hearty chuckles are indeed a disturbance of peace, he the mentally disabled man will face hefty fines or jail time. But if the judge rules the ordinance unconstitutional, Schiavelli will have the last laugh.