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JANUARY 24, 1996

'Noodleman' returns to face old charges

Citizen Staff Writer

KEY WEST - More than four and a half years after smoking a joint on the steps of Old City Hall to kick off his candidacy for a City Commission seat, Ron "Noodleman" Carter headed to court Tuesday to face some judicial sauce.
Carter - who skipped town to avoid facing a possible one-year jail term for the demonstration - reappeared in Judge Susan Vernon's courtroom to plead no contest and seek closure on his fugitive status.
"I'm here on my own volition to try to work things out," the 54-year-old said.
He's out of politics for good, said Carter, who's since traded in his trademark bald head and long mustache for a ponytail and short mustache.
A former Sunset Celebration vendor, Carter deceided in 1991 to challenge then-Commissioner Virginia Panico for a commission seat, eventually won by Joe Pais. Carter characterized himself as a lawbreaker rather than lawmaker, saying there were too many "stupid laws" which should be broken.
The homeless Carter ran into more trouble when police ticketed him for sleeping in his

van in 1992. At the time, Vernon sentenced Carter to six months of probation and 128 hours of community service.

Before Carter had a chance to complete the sentence or begin his pot-smoking trial, he left town. In a 1992 Citizen letter to the editor, Carter wrote, "I just don't feel that I can accomplish anything by going to jail at this time."
When he left, warrants for failure to appear and violation of probation followed.
Carter said he doesn't regret what he did, but is incredibly relieved to have the whole saga almost over with.
"Political tempers have cooled," said Carter, who's been in town for about six weeks.
"It feels good to be out of politics and free. This is the first time I haven't been a fugitive from the law since 1970."

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