Ga. Man Arrested for Charging His Electric Car at Local Middle School

PHOTO: Kaveh Kamooneh was arrested for charging his electric car with an exterior outlet at Chamblee Middle School in Chamblee, Ga.

Police in a Georgia town arrested a man for using a local school's power to charge his electric car while his son received tennis lessons.

Kaveh Kamooneh, 50, admits that he had charged his car multiple times on the school's property but he says he didn't know he wasn't permitted to do so. The value of electricity used during the charging isn't clear but it was likely in the pennies range, Kamooneh said.

"I'm waiting for them to arrest water drinkers and cell phone chargers," said Kamooneh, a former university professor who is now an investment advisor.

Kamooneh's son had received tennis lessons at the school for about five weeks when one Saturday last month, the tennis instructor told Kamooneh that he saw someone in his white Nissan Leaf electric car, parked about 35 feet away from the tennis court.

Kamooneh said a Chamblee policeman was inside his car, with one foot outside.

"I wasn't sure what was going on. I asked him why he was in my car. He was very uninterested in answering my question," Kamooneh said. "I asked him at least one more time."

Kamooneh said he noticed the car was unplugged and the charger was on the ground. After providing his driver's license and asking for the officer's information, he said he was later told that his car was abandoned on public property.

According to the Chamblee police report, the police officer wrote, "I asked him why his vehicle was plugged into the power at the school. He told me that was an excepted [sic] practice and that I was making to [sic] much of it. I asked him if he has [sic] asked the Dekalb County school system if he could take the power. He told me that I did not ask if my patrol car can dirty the air -- did you? He says 'No you did not'."

Later a police sergeant came and Kamooneh provided his phone number and information.

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A statement from Chamblee Middle School said, "On Sat., Nov. 2, 2013 a local citizen contacted the Chamblee Police Department with a complaint that an electric car was plugged into the power outlet of Chamblee Middle School. The Chamblee Police investigated the allegation and subsequently arrested the owner of the electric car. The DeKalb County School District has cooperated in the investigation and will continue to do so."

Because Kamooneh didn't live in Chamblee, the case was given to the Dekalb County Sheriff's department. On Nov. 13, Kamooneh was arrested at his home on a warrant for misdemeanor theft. He spent about 14.5 hours at the police station during which, he said he was told, his fingerprints were being processed. He was released the next day on $150 bail.

Marc Johnson, police chief and city manager of Chamblee, said, "Bottom line: if he had just said, 'Sorry I can just unplug,' there wouldn't have been a report."

Kamooneh said he disagreed.

"The officer who was there certainly did not have that attitude. He was very confrontational. He seemed very upset that I questioned his entry into my car and it seemed like he was upset that I wasn't getting scared or wasn't intimidated at his threat of arrest. He did not provide an atmosphere where that would have happened," Kamooneh said.

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Johnson said comparing car charging to cell phone charging was "preposterous."

"Cell phone charging stations have stands and signs to charge your phones," he said, referring to airport kiosks.

The police say that Kamooneh was warned about being on the school property, but Kamooneh said he was never warned about not using the school's power. According to a police report, school employees said they had seen him on school property previously, "specifically the tennis courts," but Kamooneh said only he, the tennis instructor and his son are typically at the school on Saturdays or Sundays.

Kamooneh intends to defend the charge in court in February.

"I'm pretty confident that this is going to be laughed out of court," he said.

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