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Sympathetic Judge Orders Community Service For Boardwalk Lawbreaker

May 25, 1986

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Officers who arrested a woman with deformed arms and legs for playing an electronic keyboard on the Boardwalk applauded when a sympathetic judge sentenced her to perform community service rather than fining her $500.

Celestine Tate, 30, of Philadelphia gave an impromptu recital at her trial Friday, demonstrating how she plays the keyboard with her tongue.

The single mother and former welfare recipient, who has been deformed since birth, told Judge Bruce Weeks that she began playing on the Boardwalk three years ago to support her two children.

Ms. Tate said she had made as much as $1,000 a day from tourists during the summer season before being arrested in March for violating a 1910 city law that forbids practicing a trade on the Boardwalk.

The woman, who acted as her own lawyer, said she had first tried begging, but found it too degrading. She learned to type 65 words per minute with her mouth and tongue, but was never hired as a typist because prospective employers found her method unacceptable, she testified.

Then she then went to music school, she said.

″That gave me something to give to people,″ she told the judge.

Even City Prosecutor Steven Smoger had kind words for Ms. Tate, suggesting she appeal to the City Council to amend the ordinance.

″I admire her greatly ... her guts, her drive,″ he said. ″But we don’t have the flexibility to allow her to stay on the Boardwalk.″

″I think everybody feels a little sympathetic about her,″ police Officer Daniel Lash said Saturday. ″It’s a shame she can’t make a living any other way.″

Smoger said he would arrange for Ms. Tate to satisfy the eight-hour community service sentence by playing at Children’s Seashore Home, a city hospital and rehabilitation center for handicapped youngsters.

Neither Ms. Tate nor Smoger could be reached for comment Sunday. Both have unlisted telephone numbers.

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