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Quadriplegic Performer Due Back In Court

September 4, 1988

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ A quadriplegic who earns thousands of dollars in donations on the Boardwalk by using her tongue to play a portable keyboard again faces charges of breaking the city’s anti-begging laws.

Celestine Tate faces 12 charges of playing without a permit. She was issued summonses in 1986 for the same reason, but after a trial, a lawsuit and a lot of publicity, the city allowed Ms. Tate to play for money on the Boardwalk.

The city, in backing down, assigned her a spot on the Boardwalk and required a permit. But prosecutors said she has not obtained the permit and has been playing in front of Bally’s Park Place casino hotel two blocks away for most of the summer.

Ms. Tate argues that her Bally’s spot is shaded and that she was misled into thinking she would receive a merchant’s license.

City officials have instead offered her standard one-day Boardwalk permits, which require a $1 million insurance bond. She said such a bond would cost her $500 a day.

City Prosecutor Steven Smoger said the city ″made a great dispensation″ in allowing Ms. Tate to play for money on the Boardwalk. No other person, handicapped or otherwise, has been given that opportunity, he said.

Birth defects left Ms. Tate’s arms and legs undeveloped. She supports herself and her children, ages 10 and 12, with the money she earns on the Boardwalk.

She said she averages $2,000 a week, enough to send her children to private school.

Police have also issued summonses to her brother and two paid attendants.

The crackdown on Ms. Tate’s business was prompted by several citizen complaints, Smoger said, declining to elaborate.

The prosecutor was unsympathetic to Ms. Tate’s insurance problems. ″If that’s the price, so be it,″ he said. ″She earns more than enough to cover that. I think she should absorb the cost and pay it.

″She’s a cunning, clever businesswoman,″ he said. ″I think she is overexaggerating to a great degree.″

Ms. Tate has requested a trial and time to obtain a lawyer. Meanwhile, she said, she will continue to entertain Boardwalk tourists with renditions of songs such as ″We Shall Overcome,″ ″Amazing Grace″ and ″Born Free.″

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