Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Man uses research and angle of sun to beat Clearwater red-light ticket

CLEARWATER — Richard Cornelius delivered his line perfectly, piquing the interest of the Municipal Code Enforcement Board, which was already flagging after just a half-hour of red-light camera appeals.

The seven volunteer members had already been compared to Nazi Germany by one angry offender.

When asked if he was guilty, Cornelius said he couldn't answer yes or no.

"Your picture says yes, but I've got an extenuating circumstance," said Cornelius, 64, whose car ran a red light at Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Belcher Road in September.

Cornelius' excuse? The Florida sun.

An early morning glare from the rising sun blinded him, Cornelius said. He researched the sun angle, contacting Cornell University for help. He took pictures of the sun slant from 23 degrees to the southeast, which the university told him was the same angle that rays had hit his car at 7:35 a.m. on Sept. 20, just a few days before the autumnal equinox.

He couldn't even see the traffic signal, Cornelius said.

"Yellow, green or what? The sun was coming right at me and I couldn't see," Cornelius said. "That's my story, I'm sticking to it."

The board was rendered momentarily speechless.

"I'm impressed by your ... ," said board chairman Duane Schultz, grasping for a response.

"Tenacity," interjected another board member.

"Anyone who has lived in this state for any length of time is well aware of what the sun does," Schultz said. "But I'm not sure that's an excuse for running a red light."

Turns out, it is. After watching the video, the board voted 4-3 to throw out Cornelius' ticket.

The Nov. 20 monthly code board meeting was the third one that included red-light camera ticket appeals. Several board members say they can't wait to be rid of the duty, which is slated to be turned over to a city-contracted hearing officer in January.

So far, the board has listened to 21 stories, excuses and tales of woe. All but Cornelius were assessed a $158 fine and most of them also were charged an administrative fee ranging from $50 to $150.

It's a tough evidence hurdle to clear. The board has photos and video of every offender snapped by cameras on Chestnut Street as drivers leave Memorial Causeway from Clearwater Beach as well as both directions at the Gulf-to-Bay and Belcher intersection.

Cornelius admitted that the board's decision surprised him.

"A little bit, yeah, a little bit," he said as he left the hearing.

His victory had cost him about 1 1/2 hours in research time and $10 to develop the photos.

And the car he was driving that sun-splashed morning?

A 2006 Chevy Equinox.

Charlie Frago can be reached at or (727) 445-4159. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlieFrago

Man uses research and angle of sun to beat Clearwater red-light ticket 11/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 6:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and ex-cheerleader Lynn Aronberg finalize their divorce


    In announcing that her divorce was settled this week, Lynn Aronberg said the reason for the split in part was because she supports President Donald Trump and her Democratic husband does not.

    Dave and Lynn Aronberg were married on St. Pete Beach in May 2015.
  2. A trip down memory lane of Bucs' preseason expectations


    With HBO's Hard Knocks in town and the Bucs opening training camp Friday with their highest expectations in a decade, here's a look back at Tampa Bay's preseason expectations since their last playoff appearance in 2007 — and the results.


    Jameis Winston and running back Peyton Barber celebrate a touchdown last season against the 49ers. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  3. Boy Scouts apologize over Trump's remarks at jamboree


    Facing an angry backlash from parents and former members, the chief executive of the Boy Scouts of America apologized on Thursday for political remarks made by President Donald Trump at the organization's national jamboree this week, during which the commander-in-chief crowed over his election victory, attacked the news …

    President DonaldTrump, front left, gestures as former boys scouts, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, watch at the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree at the Summit in Glen Jean, W.Va. Boy Scouts president Randall Stephenson told the Associated Press on Wednesday, July 26, in his first public comments on the furor over President Donald Trump's speech on Monday that he'd be "disingenuous" if he suggested he was surprised by the Republican president's comments. [Associated Press]
  4. Drones restrictions coming at Tampa Bay area airports


    Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, according to a press release.

    In this February 2017 file photo, a drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London. Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems,
[John Stillwell/PA via AP, File]
  5. Hit-run driver who refused to leave van threatened to shoot, Hillsborough deputies say

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eddie Carly Colon Soto peeked his head out the broken side window of his van as a SWAT team closed in.

    The driver of this van tried to flee the scene of a crash in north Tampa Thursday morning until he could travel no farther, the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. Then he refused to leave the van and threatened sheriff's deputies, they said. [TONY MARRERO   |   Times]