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'Theft of power' lands electric-car driver in jail

A Georgia man found himself in handcuffs after charging his electric car outside a middle school where his son was playing tennis in what police alleged was unlawful “theft” of county power worth roughly five cents.

Kaveh Kamooneh, of Decatur, said he was attending a Saturday morning tennis practice session for his 11-year-old son on Nov. 2 when he plugged in his electric car at a power outlet outside Chamblee Middle School.

Kamooneh, 50, said he was alarmed when, soon after, he saw a police officer inspecting his Nissan LEAF.

According to a report from the Chamblee Police Department, an officer responded to a called complaint of the white Nissan LEAF left parked and charging at the school. In the police report, the officer said he could not find the vehicle’s owner but found the car doors unlocked and picked up a piece of mail on the car floor showing a Decatur address.

“He told me he was going to arrest me for theft,” Kamooneh said, who said he charged his car for roughly 20 minutes. Clean Cities Atlanta, an electric vehicle advocacy group, says that is roughly the equivalent of a nickel's worth of electricity, WIXA in Atlanta reported

On Nov. 13, Kamooneh said he was met at his door by police, who handcuffed him and took him to the DeKalb County jail, where he was held for about 15 hours.

“I quickly realized it was from the events that had happened 11 days back,” he said. “The officer did threaten that he would do that. I guess I didn’t quite believe that he would go through with it.”

Kamooneh was officially charged with theft by taking what the officer said was “theft of power” by not seeking permission from the DeKalb County School system to charge his car there, according to the police report.

Police said, according to the report, they met with Chamblee Middle School employees, who confirmed that Kamooneh was not authorized to plug his car into any school socket.

Sgt. Ernesto Ford of the of the Chamblee Police Department declined to discuss the incident further with NBC News, but told WXIA that Kamooneh “broke the law. He stole something that wasn’t his.”

“A theft is a theft,” he added.

But Kamooneh said he believes he committed no crime. He said in his experience as an electric car driver, seeking permission was often an informal exchange and that he had never encountered a problem before.

“Of course I agree that theft is theft, what I don’t agree with is that every taking of something without permission is theft,” he said, adding that there was no one at the school to ask permission from at the time.

The DeKalb County School District said in a statement that it has cooperated with the police investigation and will continue to do so.