Lane Pittman “was simply celebrating his freedoms as an American by playing one hell of a version of the National Anthem on Independence Day.”
On July 4, 2015, 22 year-old Lane Pittman decided to take his electric guitar and play the Star Spangled Banner on the street outside his friend’s house in Neptune Beach, near Jacksonville.
Pittman says that after a police officer asked him to stop, he asked if it was okay to play on the sidewalk, and was told that was okay. And play he did:
“I don’t think I ever played that song as good in my life as I did on that day. It felt right. It was an emotional roller coaster.”
The crowd topped 200 people, spilling onto the street around him:
Then Pittman was, to his surprise, arrested for breaching the peace:
Pittman said what happened next took him completely by surprise. The officers handcuffed him and drove him to the police station.
“He goes, ‘Spread your legs. Put your hands behind your back,’ and that was when I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. Is he serious? I’m getting arrested for this after I was told I could do it?'” Pittman said.
“Out of respect for the national anthem, they let them finish the National Anthem,” Neptune Beach Police Chief David Sembach said. “He was told he was going to have to stop playing. He went to the sidewalk and continued playing, and it was only after that that the crowd was getting hostile, so the only way to stop it, since he wasn’t going to stop playing, was to take him out of the location.”
This image from the video shows Pittman being approached by police just after he finished playing:
According to local news reports, the police intended to keep Pittman in jail overnight, but ended up giving him a Notice to Appear when they realized they didn’t have a place to hold him.
The incident garnered a fair amount of social media attention at the time, with the video of Pittman playing his guitar having over 200,000 views.
The Neptune Beach Police apparently received a lot of hostile messages, leading it to issue a statement on Facebook, which reads in part:
To all interested folks –
July 10, 2015
It is of no surprise that the story of Lane Pittman has gone viral within Social Media, local news and even now national news. We totally understand, but do not agree with, the rush to judgment reaction from all corners. This case was never about someone playing the “Star Spangled Banner” – what freedom loving American would object to that? This case was about the police having the responsibility to keep roadways and sidewalks traversable and as safe as possible. From our perspective, Mr. Pittman was the catalyst of the large group of people who had gathered in the roadway and sidewalks. This prohibited or severely delayed the response of emergency personnel. If we let the guitar playing continue and something terrible happened, we would be criticized for that as well. The way it was handled, no one was hurt and no property was destroyed….
I would like to personally thank Lane Pittman for being one of the few people who did not call, email, text, or Facebook the NBPD with hate filled diatribe toward the Neptune Beach Police Department – The calls for us to “Die” were particularly interesting.
In closing, we understand that Mr. Pittman is what many people describe as a “Great Dude”. We don’t dispute that. Moving forward we wish Mr. Pittman the best of luck with his entertainment career. If you are interested in his aspirations follow him on Instagram @thebigguy904 or FaceBook @Lane Pittman for Jaxson DeVille.
David Sembach, Chief of Police
[“Jaxson de Ville” is the mascot of the Jacksonville Jaguars, a position to which Pittman aspires]
Pittman appeared in court on July 27, 2015, and was offered a “diversion” plea deal, which normally involves community service after which the charges are dropped.
Pittman rejected the plea deal, and posted this message and image on Facebook:
UPDATE: just got out of court and they have decided to push back the situation to ANOTHER court date on Aug. 27th. During the time in between this, the State Attorney will decide to either file this or not. They gave me a diversion deal to where I could do a bunch of community service and the arrest goes away and I said no. To me, that is admitting guilt. I would be admitting a guilt that is nonexistent. Thank you everyone for the prayers and support! Praying God is glorified through all of this no matter what the outcome is!!
You know what else is quintessentially American? Small town police reactions.
Apple pie, Mark McGwire, Tiger Woods, Union Carbide and Anthony Weiner all rolled up into a sucrose surprise in a fluffy pastry shell.
So American, and it got served up to Lane Pittman.
Pittman got a few notes in, and then a peace officer played Name That Tune.
“He said ‘if you want to go to jail then you will keep playing,” said Pittman in that same FCN dispatch. “And, I was, like, are you serious? He said you can’t play in the middle of the street. I said, can I move it back to the sidewalk?”
The art of getting to yes. Pittman, who looks like a cross between Randee of the Redwoods and Don’t Tase Me Bro, somehow thought he could negotiate with a police officer. Ask D’Angelo. Ask Devanta. Ask PINAC. Ask the Jax 19.
Clearly, Pittman doesn’t watch the news. Failing that, he clearly doesn’t get that his act isn’t nearly as cute as he thought it was.
But mostly Pittman has received enormous community support. He’s being invited to repeat his guitar solo at many events:
Pittman’s lawyer, Caleb D. Rowland, would not comment directly on plea negotiations, but did confirm that the offer of diversion made in court was rejected outright by Pittman, and added:
“Mr. Pittman is committed to seeing this through trial, if necessary. He believes, and I completely agree, he did nothing illegal, and was simply celebrating his freedoms as an American by playing one hell of a version of the National Anthem on Independence Day.”
Pittman is not a likely candidate for legal trouble: “He has no criminal record, plays in his church’s band, is a high school lacrosse coach and well-known in the community.”
A motion to dismiss the charge as legally insufficient has been filed. A new court date of August 27 is scheduled, by which time the prosecution will have to decide to move forward with the Notice of Appearance, file a new criminal Information, or drop the charges.
Neither the prosecuting attorney nor the Neptune Beach Police responded as of this writing to emails asking for comment.
Legal Insurrection reader Robert Bleakney, who alerted me to this story, sums up the case this way:
Surely this case warrants a legal insurrection, as defined on your Web site! And surely citizens have a right to use the public sidewalk as an open forum to celebrate the Fourth of July….
… the just powers of the police, like those of all government officials, are derived from the consent of the governed, and thus constitutionally limited, as the people retain an unalienable right to peaceably assemble in celebration of patriotic expression on the Fourth of July.
UPDATE 7-31-2015 10:50 a.m. Eastern — I just heard back from the prosecuting attorney’s office with the following statement in response to my question whether the prosecution will move forward with charges:
“The case is being reviewed.”
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