DENVER — A 71-year-old Denver man is facing a felony charge after city officials say he made a pickleball court without permission. With prosecution on the table, some believe the punishment doesn't fit the crime.
"The whole pickleball community is really saddened and shocked," said Jan Devor, a friend of 71-year-old Arslan Guney and fellow pickleball player.
Guney and others use a basketball court at Denver's Central Park Recreation Center for pickleball. Last Monday, the markings on the court had faded, so Guney re-marked them with a Sharpie.
Three days later, an arrest warrant for felony criminal mischief was issued for Guney. The court document also claims ten thousand dollars in damages.
Guney also received an email notifying him his Denver Parks and Recreation membership had been suspended indefinitely.
The game — a mix of tennis, racquetball and ping-pong — is one Guney has played for years, according to close friends. Devor said she and others are appalled, shocked and saddened by the situation.
"He is what we call the mayor of pickleball," Devor said. "He is an expert player himself but always takes time to slow down his game... to teach others to play with people of any ability. I have 40 letters that have been given to me that I'm submitting to the lawyer that attest to his kindness and his generosity. He has written a letter to Denver Parks and Recreation apologizing."
Devor went on to say her friend was devastated by the ordeal.
According to her and others in the pickleball community, apologies have not been enough. Now, Guney is represented by Hollynd Hoskins, an attorney who happens to be a pickleball player herself.
"This community is willing to remove the marks, hire a contractor to do it safely, to apologize, to volunteer with the community, but this is outrageous," Hoskins said.
Denver Parks and Recreation declined to sit down for an interview with Denver7. Instead, they provided an statement:
"It is our duty and responsibility to the citizens of Denver to protect city assets and public property. Defacing or damaging public property is unacceptable, a criminal offense and will not be tolerated in any of our public buildings or spaces. Law enforcement is aware of the damage and the incident is being investigated. Pickleball play was temporarily suspended to assess the damage and related repairs."
A spokesperson added pickleball play has since resumed.
Hoskins said she is now trying to get the arrest warrant turned into a court summons so Guney can avoid jail time.
"The community wants answers but we, again, we want to sit down and work this out, reach a resolution," Hoskins said. "This was an incredible misunderstanding and a mistake. It was not a crime."
"The courts should be saved for real criminal matters, not for matters like this," Devor said.
Guney turned himself in on Thursday morning. His attorney, Hollynd Hoskins, said the district attorney agreed to a personal recognizance bond for Guney around 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
Hoskins said Guney would be released in 6-8 hours from then if court proceedings are functioning as normal.