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Quadriplegic Fined For Soliciting On The Planks

October 18, 1986

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ A woman with tiny, deformed arms and legs who plays an electronic keyboard with her tongue has vowed to continue performing on the Boardwalk despite a $2,000 fine for violating an anti-begging ordinance.

Celestine Tate, 31, a single mother who lives in Philadelphia, contends she has no other way of supporting her two daughters. She says no fine will stop her.

″The only way you can keep me off the Boardwalk is by putting me in jail,″ Ms. Tate told Municipal Court Judge Bruce Weekes after he fined her Friday for 18 counts of soliciting on the Boardwalk.

It was the second time this year that Ms. Tate was convicted of violating the shore resort’s 76-year-old ordinance that prohibits soliciting or practicing a trade on the Boardwalk. Prosecutors contend her performances earn her as much as $1,000 a day during the peak summer season, and that she may earn $120,000 to $140,000 a year.

Weekes delayed payment of the fine until Nov. 18, a day after Ms. Tate’s challenge to the ordinance is scheduled to be heard by Superior Court Judge Richard J. Williams.

Ms. Tate’s lawyer, Jack Feinberg, contends the law deprives his client of her constitutional right to earn a living.

Ms. Tate was born with birth defects that left her limbs underdeveloped and useless. A former welfare recipient, she began playing music on the Boardwalk three years ago, using a gurney and a hired driver to reach the planks.

After repeated requests that she cease, police cited Ms. Tate in March.

She was convicted in May on eight counts of violating the ordinance and ordered by Weekes to serve eight hours of community service. She told him she would continue to play on the Boardwalk.

During that trial, Ms. Tate gave an impromptu recital that won the applause of even the police officers who had testified against her.

Between May and July, she was frequently back on the boards and was cited for 18 violations of the ordinance. Atlantic City Prosecutor Steven Smoger said each count carries a maximum penalty of a $200 fine and 90 days in jail.

The prosecutor said that after Ms. Tate’s first convictions, he had suggested she apply to Mayor James Usry and the city council for a waiver or an amended ordinance.

″The olive branch was handed over,″ Smoger said. ″But she’s too shrewd. She did nothing affirmative.″

He told Weekes that Ms. Tate earned between $120,000 and $140,000 last year from her Boardwalk performances.

Immediately after Friday’s hearing, Ms. Tate returned to her usual spot on the Boardwalk near Arkansas Avenue and Caesars Casino Hotel.

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