LIRR rider acquitted for antics

April 8, 2008 5:01:20 PM PDT
A Long Island Rail Road commuter fed up with his fellow riders' manners argued that he was justified in cursing at a passenger who was talking on his cell phone and in slapping another rider's hand when she intervened. Apparently, the judge agreed.

John Clifford's trial opened Monday in Manhattan. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment in the March 2007 dispute.

Clifford had acquired a reputation as a self-appointed etiquette enforcer on the commuter railroad. He maintains he had a right to tell off the cell-phone chatterer, and he says the woman he slapped hit him first.

The woman testified that Clifford's antics "violated (her) space."

LIRR spokesperson Joe Calderone issued the following statement in the wake of Clifford's acquittal:

"We're disappointed, but we accept the judgement of the court. Some of our customers feel as if they have been abused by Mr. Clifford's behavior. We will not tolerate aggressive behavior by Mr. Clifford if he seeks to impose his own standards of conduct on others. We will not hesitate in the future to call on police if necessary to protect the safety of our customers and employees."