Little Italy Bocce Dispute Rolls On
The lawsuit is settled, but the he said/she said continues
Published: December 14, 2011
Playing bocce—a game similar to shuffleboard, in which players score points by rolling balls on a court—is supposed to be fun. But in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood, the good times at the city-owned Thomas J. D’Alesandro Jr. Park’s bocce courts descended into bitterness earlier this year, when a dispute between competing players ended up in court (“Bocce Brawl,” Feature, June 22).
Bocce organizer and Little Italy businessperson Giovanna Blatterman filed criminal-assault charges against player Thomas Macchia in March, which prosecutors shelved, and then Blatterman and her bocce committee filed a lawsuit against Macchia, seeking thousands of dollars and an order barring him permanently from the bocce courts. The lawsuit was settled recently, but that apparently hasn’t stopped the acrimony.
Filed in March in Howard County District Court, the lawsuit was put to rest in late September with a settlement agreement that essentially calls on the parties to stop bickering. But Macchia, in a phone interview, claims that the settlement agreement was breached by Blatterman in November, when he says she called the police on him (no charges were filed) and then filed a peace-order petition against him (which was denied by a judge, who said there was “no clear evidence” of Blatterman’s accusations). These steps, Macchia concludes, violated the agreement because they amount to “harassment.” The plaintiffs’ attorney, Lisa Ellis, agreed to speak to City Paper on behalf of Blatterman and the Little Italy Bocce Committee, and says in an e-mail that “it was Mr. Macchia, not my clients, who breached the settlement agreement” by going to the bocce courts, from which she says he was barred.
With both sides claiming the other violated the agreement, it is unclear what, if anything, happens next. But Macchia predicts Blatterman “will find something else” to try to pin on him, since “she can’t be satisfied,” he says—though in the same breath he says, “I think she’s about finished, hopefully, because the court system has had about enough of Ms. Blatterman.” Ellis, meanwhile, calls Macchia “deceptive, cunning, and dangerous,” and says she is “truly sad to see the justice system fail my clients and protect the rights of a person like Mr. Macchia,” leaving him “free to continue to harass and threaten” her clients “with no repercussions.”
The accusations Blatterman leveled against Macchia have been grave, but he has been cleared of wrongdoing at every turn. The March criminal-assault charges stemmed from Blatterman’s sworn statement that Macchia drove “his car over the curb onto the sidewalk straight at” Blatterman while she stood outside her daughter’s Little Italy restaurant, Café Gia. Blatterman’s statement also says Macchia “has made prior death threats against me, my daughter, and my grandson,” and is “trying to intimidate me so I will not testify about his criminal activity.”
As a result of Blatterman’s accusations, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office placed one count of second-degree assault on the inactive docket—prosecutors call it the “stet” docket—leaving open the possibility of pursuing it later should Macchia not abide by an agreement hashed out before a judge that he stay away from a four-block radius of Blatterman’s mother’s house in Little Italy, that he not harass or direct anyone to harass Blatterman, and that he not go to Blatterman’s business in the 6000 block of Falls Road, according to court documents. In October, though, Macchia successfully reopened the case in order to have the charge dropped entirely, relieving him of the restrictions.
“The prosecutor said ‘nol pros,’ judge said ‘nol pros,’ and that was that,” Macchia recalls, using the legal term that means the state declined to prosecute the charge any further. Ellis, though, says Macchia “deceptively had the stet changed by misrepresenting the facts to the court without giving Gia Blatterman notice or the chance to appear at the criminal proceeding to refute his false statements.” Macchia insists that proper notice was given, and that, for whatever reason, Blatterman simply didn’t show up for the hearing.
On Nov. 15, after Macchia successfully had the criminal case dropped, Blatterman tried a new angle. She filed a petition for a “peace order” in Baltimore City District Court, accusing Macchia of “shoving,” “harassment,” and “stalking,” and asking the court to bar him from going to several addresses in Little Italy and to Blatterman’s Falls Road business. In the petition, Blatterman stated that on Nov. 4, Macchia “did breach the terms of a STET agreement” entered in the criminal-assault case by going to the bocce courts and using “severe profanity against me,” adding that he “threatened me” and that “I was and am in fear of my life and fear I am in imminent danger.” Blatterman’s petition goes on to restate the accusations she leveled in the criminal case—that he tried to run her over in his car, and that he sent a threatening letter to her in an envelope that “contained a white powder substance.”
At a Nov. 22 hearing before Baltimore City District Judge H. Gary Bass, Macchia successfully defended himself against Blatterman’s accusations. “She said I cursed her and threatened her,” Macchia recalls, “but I went to court, brought four witnesses, and the judge said ‘no clear evidence.’ The eyewitnesses said I never said a word to her. She saw me at the bocce courts and went there looking for a confrontation, but she didn’t get it.”
While Ellis maintains that the settlement agreement that ended the lawsuit bars Macchia from going to the bocce courts, Macchia disagrees and says, “I have a right to be there.” He points out that the agreement prohibits him from going to 906 through 908 Stiles St. until Oct. 1, 2014, but that’s not the address of the bocce courts, which are at 902 through 904 Stiles St. And, according to the written agreement found in the case file, he’s exactly right.
“You can’t let a person like this get any kind of power over you,” Macchia says of Blatterman. In his view, Blatterman “taxes the city’s legal system” and “abuses it” by bringing charges against him that have “no merit.”
Ellis, though, says the city’s justice system is “a total joke” because it “turned a blind eye” to evidence of Macchia’s alleged misdeeds. “I promise you this,” she adds, “we have not heard the last of Mr. Macchia or his [allegedly] wrongful and criminal actions.”
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