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Man Says He'd Prefer Jail to Paying Trash Bill : Courts: Francis Craft refuses again to pay collection charges for garbage he says he doesn't have. Judge gives him two more months.


GLENDORA — Francis Craft, who has appeared before a judge three times for refusing to pay overdue trash bills, said he would rather go to jail than pay a penny for trash collection.

But Citrus Municipal Judge Abraham Khan last week gave the Glendora octogenarian another two months to pay the delinquent bills.

"I'd like to see you register for (trash collection)," Kahn told Craft. "If you tell me, man to man, that you'll register, I'll continue the case."

But Craft, as he has done all along, refused to cooperate.

"Put me in jail," Craft, 87, told the judge. "I got no business here. I'm not going to pay a bill I don't owe. I never have and never will. The city wants money I don't have."

Craft, a retired forklift mechanic, also vowed never to set foot in the courthouse in West Covina again--unless police pick him up.

According to city records, Craft's overdue bills, including penalties, amount to $260.

Craft says he has not paid a trash bill since August, 1990, because he does not accumulate much garbage at his home on Caballo Avenue. The little refuse he does produce, Craft said, he takes to his daughter's home in nearby La Verne.

Glendora city officials, however, did not accept that argument and turned the case over to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, which filed three Municipal Code infractions against Craft.

After his first court hearing in September, Craft was found guilty by Khan, but the judge continued sentencing to give the Glendora city staff time to compile a list of charitable agencies that might aid Craft in meeting his financial obligation.

Craft refused such charity.

At the second court appearance, in December, Khan gave Craft two months to pay the overdue bills and penalties, or face $81 in additional fines.

Last Wednesday, Khan told the feisty defendant that he could pay up through community service.

"I'm an old man and can't do community service," Craft replied.

Craft also said that he lives on a limited income and can't afford Glendora's $10.01 monthly trash collection fee.

Khan again pointed out that the city had a list of charitable agencies that are willing to help.

"That's welfare, and I never had to accept welfare in my life," Craft said, raising his arm. "I don't want no help.

"They're a bunch of Russians," the man said of Glendora officials. "And I'm an American citizen, not a foreigner."

Khan explained to Craft that city officials were not oppressing him, but protecting the health and safety of area residents.

"I'm not going to live up to a law that's unconstitutional," Craft responded.

Glendora's trash collection ordinance is "clearly constitutional," according to a California Supreme Court ruling on a Glendale case in 1957, Deputy Dist. Atty. Bill Woods said outside court. A Glendale resident challenged the city's trash ordinance, and the high court ruled that all residents were required to pay the bill, regardless of whether they produced trash.

"The problem would go away if (Craft) signs up," Woods said.

Glendora's finance director, Larry Shroeder, said after the latest hearing that it is unlikely the city will rescind the ordinance or reduce the trash fees just for Craft.

"Right now, it's up to the court."

The next hearing for Craft is scheduled for April 20.

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