Man approaches car on Race Street

A well-known downtown Cambridge panhandler approaches a vehicle on Tuesday evening, July 28, at the intersection of Race Street and Muir Street.

CAMBRIDGE — In response to numerous instances of harassment, trespassing and other public offenses, the Dorchester County District Court is taking a different approach to disciplining a well-known panhandler in Cambridge.

Roger Dennis, 61, of Cambridge, is facing misdemeanor charges of harassment and failure to obey a reasonable and lawful order from a panhandling incident on July 24. Dennis is well known to locals and business owners to frequent the downtown area asking pedestrians and people in vehicles for money.

A trial was scheduled for Dennis on Sept. 8, but his public defender requested to postpone the trial in court to consolidate these charges with another case in a rescheduled trial. His guardian also stated that they’re waiting for a place in an inpatient rehabilitation program to open up for Dennis to obtain help instead of being incarcerated.

Dennis is facing several additional misdemeanor charges from various harassment, trespassing and related incidents from June to late August, according to online court records.

Dorchester District Judge John Norton agreed to postpone the trial, acknowledging that the county’s Department of Social Services is actively seeking inpatient care for Dennis. Dennis was recently assigned a legal guardian from the department to take care of his personal and physical needs, along with advocating for him and protecting his best interests.

In the past, various community leaders have shared their difficulties in helping Dennis and expressed safety concerns they have for him and Cambridge residents.

During the hearing, Norton said that 95 percent of the reason Dennis was in court was to benefit him and Cambridge residents in a positive way, not to punish him for his actions.

Norton also chose to keep Dennis out of the detention center, saying that he’ll “choose optimism” with allowing him freedom to be on his own recognizance instead of being placed into custody.

“Hopefully there will be peace in the valley,” Norton said.

Norton is expected to appear in court for these charges on Oct. 18. He has additional court dates coming up over the next few months.Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at njones@chespub.com.

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