No charges against Seattle's self-appointed superhero

No charges against Seattle's self-appointed superhero
Phoenix Jones patrols the streets near Pike Place Market.
SEATTLE -- The city's self-appointed superhero crime fighter will not face charges, the city attorney said Wednesday.

Ben Fodor, who is better known as "Phoenix Jones", was under investigation of four counts of assault after he allegedly pepper-sprayed a group of people last month. Fodor told investigators he had used the pepper spray in an attempt to break up a fight that broke out near First Avenue and Columbia Street.

In announcing his decision on Wednesday, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes cited problems with proof in the case. Investigators spoke to two of the four alleged victims, Holmes said, but the remaining two victims who ran from the scene have not been identified.

Also complicating the case is Fodor's claim that he used the pepper spray while trying to help some of those involved in the fight. Under state law, a person is allowed to use force when he or she is coming to the aid of another person believed to be in danger, Holmes said.

Given these details, Holmes did not believe a jury would find without a reasonable doubt that Fodor intentionally spray-peppered the entire group at the scene.

Despite his decision, the city attorney said he does not champion Fodor's self-assigned role as a crime-fighting superhero.

"Mr. Fodor is no hero, just a deeply misguided individual. He has been warned that his actions put himself in danger, and this latest episode demonstrates that innocent bystanders can also be harmed," said Holmes.

Holmes urged the state Legislature to prohibit individuals from carrying a large quantity of pepper spray - "more than can be justified solely for self-defense purposes" - as was the case in Fodor's case, according to Holmes.

"I urge Mr. Fodor to consult legal counsel regarding his own potential personal civil liability if he persists with his vigilante alter ego," said Holmes. "Our state's good Samaritan statutes are designed to protect individuals who happen upon-rather than actively seek out-opportunities to render assistance to others, without expectation of compensation. These laws are not designed to protect a branded, costumed character, his roving video crew, or their copyrighted videos from the reach of tort plaintiffs."