Man not guilty in homeless feeding case

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In the first test of Orlando's controversial ban on feeding groups in public parks, a jury Tuesday found 22 year-old Eric Montanez not guilty of the misdemeanor charge against him.

After the verdict, Orange County Judge Steve Jewett praised Montanez for the "important" volunteer work he does feeding the homeless at Lake Eola Park, but cautioned: "you do have to obey the law."

Montanez said he was relieved to have the trial - stemming from his April arrest - behind him, but immediately planned to continue with a three-day "ladle-fest" feeding the homeless.

"I would hope a jury would not convict a person for feeding the homeless," Montanez said. He faced a possible $500 fine and 60 days in jail.

City prosecutor Kimberly Laskoff would not comment after the verdict.

In an e-mail to the media, the Orlando Police Department said it will continue to enforce the ordinance.

"Proper due process was followed in this case and it appears the jury felt the defendant did not violate the City ordinance," according to the e-mail. "That said, the City will continue to enforce this ordinance, as it is a vehicle for the City to balance the needs and safety of residents visiting the park and those who desire to feed in the park."

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