WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA) - Just like Abe Lincoln, Phill Howell is 6'4'' and has a thick beard. For years his friends have told him he looked so much like Abe he should play the part. So on Presidents Day, 2011, the 26-year-old decided to follow through on his friends advice. He never though he'd wind up on the other side of the law.
"I think the officers were doing their jobs, and I think that we broke the law," said Howell.
There was nothing wrong with his outfit: a bow-tie, black suit and top hat. Nor his thick, dark beard. But when he started reciting the Gettysburg Address at the top of the steps at the Lincoln Memorial, officers moved in.
"He just said we weren't allowed to give speeches without any kind of permit. It didn't matter what we said or agenda we were pushing. I said, 'It's Presidents Day. it's the Gettysburg Address!' He said, it doesn't matter," Howell said.
The U.S. Park Police officers told him he could give his speech down to the Mezzanine level. There, he climbed up on a concrete barrier and started over.
Again, people started gathering. One of his friends tossed out a basket and people started throwing in money.
"I guess in the back of my mind I thought we could make some money. After the first speech, we made about $25. That's a pretty good rate," said Howell.
But it's illegal to solicit money or sell anything on federal property without a vending license. But, Honest Abe says he didn't know.
"I was just naive,"says Howell.
U.S. Park Police Spokesman Bill Line says being ignorant of the law is no excuse. Howell and his friend with the basket were each given $50 citations which they say they intend to pay. Howell says the police also confiscated for evidence the $25 they collected.
Howell is hoping this publicity leads him to some real gigs where he can make some legal money.
Written by Peggy Fox
9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com