The Sound of Speaking Absolves Garfunkel


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Oct 22, 2005
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New York -- Singer Art Garfunkel used his best-known trait - his voice - to get out of troubled waters in Ulster County.
Instead of paying a $100 fine for possessing a small amount of marijuana in Woodstock in August 2005, Garfunkel was sentenced to community service: speaking to students at two local high schools about maintaining a healthy lifestyle, according to Ulster County District Attorney Donald A. Williams.

Garfunkel, who became a pop music icon in the late 1960s with partner Paul Simon, spoke to 75-100 students each at Rondout Valley and Onteora high schools in late March, Williams said.

"He was sincere, thoughtful and impressive," Williams said of Garfunkel's Onteora speech, which the prosecutor attended. "I sincerely believe he really connected with these students based on the questions from the kids and his honest responses."

Williams said he personally chose Rondout Valley and Onteora because of the schools' diverse populations and the "real possibility of (Garfunkel) having a real impact." The teenagers who attended the talks - athletes, musicians, artists, theater students and academics, among others - were chosen by each school's administrators, Williams said.

"He spoke for more than an hour at Onteora, with a question-and-answer period, and then spent some time with individual students," the district attorney said.

Garfunkel, 64, was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana, a violation, last Aug. 28 after police in Woodstock found a marijuana cigarette in the ashtray of his 2005 Buick, authorities said at the time. The singer had been pulled over for running a stop sign at state Routes 212 and 375.

It was the second time in less than two years that Garfunkel, a Manhattan resident, was busted for having pot in Ulster County. In January 2004, he was charged with unlawful possession of marijuana when police found the drug in his jacket pocket after the limo he was riding in was pulled over for speeding on state Route 28 in Hurley.

Garfunkel pleaded guilty in that case and paid a $100 fine.

Williams said Garfunkel's message to the Rondout Valley and Onteora students "served the community far better than (another) $100 fine would have."

Williams said the students were aware the singer was making the presentations as part of a drug sentence - which was handed down last September in Woodstock Town Court - and sent him letters afterward thanking him for speaking.

But there was no advance publicity of the two talks. Not even the students were told ahead of time.

"No one knew he was coming, including the students," Williams said.

Officials at Onteora and Rondout Valley did not return phone messages from a reporter seeking comments about Garfunkel's talks.

Simon and Garfunkel were immensely popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s with such hit songs as "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Mrs. Robinson" and "The Sound of Silence." Simon has had a successful solo career in the years since, while Garfunkel has enjoyed only moderate popularity on his own.

The two reunited for a 1981 concert in Manhattan's Central Park that attracted 500,000 people, and they toured together in 1983 and 2003.

Source: Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY)
Author: Mary Fairchild, Freeman Staff
Published: May 13, 2006
Copyright: 2006 Daily Freeman