Saturday, April 30, 2016

Corrupt NY Politicians Imprisoned Reflect: NYT

As the FBI investigation into St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's political machine continues (ignored for months by The St. Augustine Record), big shot crooks contemplating their future will want to read the article in the print edition of the May 1, 2016 New York Times, here:

Shirley L. Huntley, a former New York state senator from Queens, spent 10 months in federal prison in Danbury, Conn. CreditUli Seit for The New York Times 

Down the hall came Inmate No. 78764-053, a fist of a man diminished by the loss of the $2,500 suit and the $800 shoes he had just been forced to exchange for a jumpsuit, following a guard to his cell.
First night in federal prison, and he was already headed to solitary confinement, his case too notorious for him to mingle safely with the others. He remembers the cell being clammy and dark. It made him think of Rikers Island, where his father had been held after being arrested when Pedro was 11. But this was a few grades higher: the Metropolitan Detention Center, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a windowless cage looming over the East River.
From the next cell came a voice, pricking him out of his numbness:
“Hey, Espada! Hang in there. You’re the senator, right?” the voice said. “My mother voted for you.”
Senator, he was: Pedro Espada Jr., once the third-most powerful man in New York State. And “senator” he remains — even today, three years into a five-year sentence for stealing money from a nonprofit.
There are a lot of “senators” in America’s federal prisons these days. In May, three more corrupt New York State lawmakers are expected to join the jumpsuited ranks, three more cautionary tales from a State Legislature with no apparent shortage of them.
There is Sheldon Silver, a Democrat and former Assembly speaker, who was convicted of abusing his office in return for nearly $4 million in kickbacks. There is Dean G. Skelos, a Republican and former Senate majority leader, who was found guilty of selling official favors for payments and jobs for his son. Convicted last fall in overlapping trials that sent Albany into upheaval, the two men are to be sentenced within 10 days of each other in May, with Mr. Silver’s sentencing scheduled first, on Tuesday.
And then there is John L. Sampson, all but eclipsed by the convictions of Mr. Silver and Mr. Skelos, who led the Senate Democrats for three and a half years. Mr. Sampson was convicted last year of trying to thwart an investigation into allegations that he had embezzled state funds. He is to be sentenced on May 19.
Like many of those convicted before them, Mr. Silver, Mr. Skelos and Mr. Sampson have asked for minimal or no prison time. Prosecutors, sentencing guidelines and recent history suggest they should not expect any leniency.
If interviews with four former lawmakers — two currently incarcerated and two who have been released — are a guide, the three men are in for a prolonged humbling. Their former colleagues tell of spiritual awakenings, physical survival and mental toughening. But what figures largest in these personal narratives — what they say has sustained them throughout — is the belief that they were wrongly prosecuted.
Contrition? What for?
Outside, their names are synonymous with scandal. Inside, they command a measure of respect.
“I have a title for life,” said Efraín González Jr., a Democrat and former state senator from the Bronx who was convicted in 2009 and spent almost six years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J., before being released in February. “I introduced myself as Efraín. But they called me senator.”
With the expected arrivals of Mr. Skelos, Mr. Silver and Mr. Sampson, there will be at least nine former members of the New York State Legislature in the federal prison system. Nine more were released over the last few years. One, facing terminal cancer, is under house arrest. Another died in prison.
“I laugh at all those who turned up their nose at me,” said Shirley L. Huntley, a former state senator from Queens who spent 10 months in federal prison in Danbury, Conn. — the institution on which the women’s prison in “Orange Is the New Black” is based — after pleading guilty in 2013 to stealing more than $87,000 in taxpayer money through a nonprofit she ran. “Now look where they’re at. They’re in worse shape.”

John L. Sampson, Sheldon Silver and Dean G. Skelos, all former state lawmakers who have been convicted of crimes, will be sentenced in May.CreditFrom left: Anthony Lanzilote for The New York Times; Seth Wenig, via Associated Press; Andrew Renneisen for The New York Times 

Puffing on an e-cigarette in her living room in Queens, the same room where she once secretly recorded seven of her colleagues for the authorities, she went down the list. Friends. Enemies. Allies. Idiots.
Then came the kiss-off, bile tempered with a laugh.
“You can tell all the other crooks I say hey!”

‘Too Consumed’ With Power

Mr. Espada prefers a new honorific: prison abolitionist.
Some facts before going further: Before all this happened, he had run for office about a dozen times, losing more often than he won. He had shaken a swarm of investigations and one indictment before succumbing to a second. He had risen from poverty to become the highest-ranking Latino in New York State government — and, briefly and under bizarre circumstances, the third-most powerful man in the state — but only after single-handedly bringing the Senate to a standstill and making Albany a national laughingstock in the process. He once tried to hide from a television reporter by putting on an orange ski cap and using a baby to shield his face.
On a recent morning at the Metropolitan Detention Center, sitting in a plastic chair in an airless, glassed-in booth in what resembled a large hospital waiting room — minus the televisions, the pastel watercolor paintings, the magazines and the windows — Mr. Espada seemed shorn of the grandiloquence that those in Albany had come to know so well over the two decades of his singularly unruly political career.
No more ego, he promised — or not as much, anyway. No more referring to himself, without irony, as Hurricane Espada. He said he was devoting his life to reforming America’s prisons.
Continue reading the main story
He had seen, he said, how prison devastates lives and families instead of rehabilitating inmates. He had seen prisoners released, only to return within months, unable to cope in a society that no longer wanted much to do with them.
He had been studying the mass-incarceration literature: Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow;” Harvey A. Silverglate’s “Three Felonies a Day;” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Prison,” by Jeff Smith, a former Missouri state legislator. Mr. Espada said that only violent offenders, people like murderers and rapists, should be in prison, and that others should be forced to serve their communities. Of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver, Mr. Espada said, “Anybody that would want to put them in jail for 10 or 15 years should spend a weekend in here and think whether that’s necessary. It wouldn’t pay back the people they harmed.”
He avoided addressing the victims of his own crimes. Mr. Espada, a Democrat, was convicted in 2012 of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the nonprofit health care clinics he ran in his Bronx district when he was a state senator. He spent the spoils on sushi, parties, spa treatments and a Bentley. Then he got caught.

‘This Is Our New Existence’

In the years since, there have been 16 months of no daylight and no fresh air, and before that nearly a year of not seeing his family. And before that, a 10-week stint in solitary confinement after he stepped over the property line at the Federal Correctional Institution in Schuylkill, Pa., one of three prisons where he has spent the past three years. All in all, a thorough humiliation.
“I know that I was too consumed with the search for personal power,” he said. “I know that I was too consumed with materialistic things.” He gestured at his khaki jumpsuit, his shiny white sneakers. “Now, I don’t miss any of that,” he said. “I’m used to living on $300 a month.”
His time at Schuylkill overlapped briefly with that of Larry B. Seabrook, a former city councilman from the Bronx who is serving five years for corruption. But neither felt much like talking shop.
“This is our new existence,” Mr. Espada said. “We’re thinking about how to fit in.”
At Fort Dix, his third stop, he said he learned how the other inmates made prison hooch out of sugar and candy distilled in the bathroom, each six-ounce bottle going for $40, and where they bought cellphones and drugs. Once back at the detention center in Brooklyn, he learned to get his protein from canned tuna, eggs and peanut butter bought at the commissary, and to relish microwave meals of commissary mackerel, chicken, pork sausage and rice. Once a professional brawler, he learned to avoid confrontation. (There have been a few close calls, even so.)
He learned to sleep through the noise of 100 other men snoring and going to the bathroom and working out and watching television, so he can wake up at 4:30 a.m. to lift weights. To survive solitary confinement by running in place until he was exhausted. To love God, about whom he had not thought all that much for many years. To keep busy with Bible study and a biweekly book club. To cherish every visit with his wife, who has visited him each weekend, even though touching is restricted and they have had to sit side by side, knees facing forward, rationing their two kisses and hugs.
Continue reading the main story

Efraín González Jr., a Democrat and former state senator from the Bronx who was convicted in 2009, spent almost six years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix, N.J. He was released in February and is now back home in the Bronx. CreditEdwin J. Torres for The New York Times 
He learned about small satisfactions, like when eight of the students in the G.E.D. class he teaches every afternoon recently passed their test. They call him “Professor.”
Professor Espada takes pride in teaching nearly illiterate men to read, in counseling younger inmates, and in helping others work through their cases in the library.
Senator Espada sits here unchastened, boasting of the “political revolution” he once led — same as Bernie Sanders, he said. Senator Espada is the one planning to tear down a bad system from the inside out. The one insisting he was framed.

‘I Didn’t Steal the Money’

If they have one thing in common, these Albany alumni, it is this: They refuse to be expunged from the rolls of the innocent.
“It doesn’t weigh on me that there’s this opinion of me, because it’s not true,” said William F. Boyland Jr., a Democrat who represented Brownsville in the Assembly. He is serving a 14-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pa., a five-hour drive out to the western part of the state, after being convicted of bribery in 2014.
It is a recurring theme.
“I don’t have that thing where I’m a criminal, so I’m smiling,” said Mr. González, who spent much of a four-hour interview at his Bronx apartment outlining, in baroque detail, all the ways he said he had been railroaded by prosecutors, the judge and even his own lawyer. (Before he left prison, he said, his fellow inmates told him, “You’re safer here with the homies. The billionaires will put out a contract on you. They don’t like you, ’cause you tell it like it is.”)
“I did not steal money from Soundview or from anybody,” said Mr. Espada, referring to the health care network he ran. He had not received a fair trial, he said; he would have continued to contest the charges had he not run out of resources and the will to subject his family to what he described as further pain.
“Maybe I didn’t spend the money right, but I didn’t steal the money,” said Ms. Huntley, who suggested that she had been the victim of a conspiracy orchestrated by old enemies in Albany. Besides, she added, as if this would mitigate things, the actions in question had occurred before she entered the Senate.
In a more reflective moment, Ms. Huntley said she could not bring herself to move on.
“Some people say, let it go,” she said. “I don’t know how to let stuff go. I don’t want to die being known as, what’s the word all the newspapers used? ‘Disgraced senator.’”
She said she wanted to be treated “just as a person. Just use my name. I’m not saying you’ve got to make me sound like I’m great. You all call me disgraced, but in my mind, I’m not disgraced.”
In this season of high-profile corruption cases, few phrases have dominated discourse in the State Capitol like ethics reform. Yet Mr. Boyland, Mr. Espada, Mr. González and Ms. Huntley had little to say on the subject. If anything, they suggested, they and their colleagues had been punished simply for doing things the Albany way.
“I wouldn’t say they were crooks. Everybody does all that,” Mr. González said of Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver. “It’s, ‘I help you, you help me.’ So what is that? Politics.”
Mr. Boyland was asked if he would endorse any of the reforms his former colleagues have discussed this session, including closing a campaign-finance loophole and banning outside income for legislators.

Former New York lawmakers Pedro Espada Jr., William Boyland Jr. and Larry Seabrook have spent time in federal prisons.CreditFrom left: Robert Stolarik for The New York Times; Ozier Muhammad, via The New York Times; Hiroko Masuike, via The New York Times 

He smiled.
“I can’t endorse anything now,” he said.

On ‘This Side of the Table’

A day begins at Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto. A former monastery on a hilltop, it would resemble a high school campus were it not for the rings of concertina wire that surround it.
Mr. Boyland is awake at 6:30 to meditate before going to work on the facilities team. (Mr. González, too, was initially assigned a job assisting a plumber, but, by his own account, was deemed more of a burden than a help.) Mr. Boyland runs around the track. He lifts weights. Without the constant nag of his cellphone, without the late, indulgent Albany dinners, he is, he said, the healthiest and most focused he has ever been.
To other inmates, he introduces himself as Will. But he lives with men from New York, even some familiar with his old district. There is a Boyland Street in Brownsville, named for his uncle, who once held the same Assembly seat.
“You the same guy?” the inmates ask.
Amid the chaos of this year’s presidential campaign, Mr. Boyland said, he is in demand as a political analyst. “All. The. Time,” he said, flashing a smile.
Some of the queries have a more local bent: “What’s going on with Cuomo and de Blasio?” he has been asked, referring to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, combatants in a never-ending intrastate quarrel. “They’re both Democrats, so what’s the beef about?”
He passes the rest of the day with religious services, Bible study, work on his legal appeal and reading. He is taking classes in Spanish (because of the Spanish-speaking constituents in his old district), small-business skills (just in case) and crocheting (hats, mostly).
He has almost finished James Redfield’s “The Celestine Prophecy,” which he described as a science-fiction novel about the spiritual journey of a wrongly imprisoned man. He said he could relate.
From afar, he tries to raise his 13-year-old son, who is back in Brooklyn. He was the hardest thing to leave behind.
Albany, he does not miss. It was serving his constituents, he said, that he loved.
“I wasn’t used to being on this side of the table,” he said, indicating the round visitors’ room table where he sat across from a reporter. “I was the one visiting to bring help. I’m usually on that side of the table.”
They watch the evening news and read the New York City papers, eavesdropping on a world that has tried to delete them from its memory.
Even so, what lies beyond the prison walls has begun to seem abstract — fuzzy around the edges.
When Mr. Espada was in solitary confinement at Schuylkill, he was allowed one hour a day to go outside, shackled and cuffed. He always went, no matter the weather.
“An opportunity to experience daylight, sunlight, rain hitting your head — it’s as basic as that,” he said, his voice softening. “I said to myself, I would never complain about the elements again, because I loved it when the rain hit my head, when it was cold.”
Then the man who was once the third-most powerful in New York State gathered himself, pivoting back to the pitch. He was the better for surviving this, he said. Not that it was about him; it was about those far less fortunate than him, who would carry this scarlet letter the rest of their lives. He had promised them he would fight for them, for reform, and he would.
He would never give up. There was a reason they still called him the Senator.


Now I understand why Secretary of State H. Clinton was so furious at Edward Snowden.  His First Amendment protected activity on NSA spying on our e-mails revealed that NSA would probably have her e-mails, illegally put on a private server in Chappaqua, NY.
So, like the morally rotten corporate lawyer she has always been, Clinton  piled on with Republicans in name-calling and shaming Edward Snowden, a heroic national security whistleblower whose disclosures revealed systematic Fourth Amendment violations.  Clinton publicly admitted that foreigners were trying to read government officials' private e-mails on their personal accounts .  Hence, her flagrant use of a private server for Top Secret information was "gross negligence," a violation of 18 U.S.C. 793(f).
Read national security expert Ray McGovern's article here:

Friday, April 29, 2016


JEB BUSH, ex-Governor, ex-Presidential candidate, contributed to County Commission candidate Henry Dean, an environmental lawyer who served as Executive Director of two Florida Water Management Districts and negotiated deals to buy land to protect it from development, including many parcels in St. Johns and Flagler Counties that will one day be part of the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore.

So did former St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS (who dumped a landfill in a lake and got away with it and who now runs Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's St. Johns County Four Star Association, Inc. nonprofit group) and louche lawyer MAC McLEOD, representing JEREMY BANKS in a harassing lawsuit against FDLE Special Agent Rusty Rodgers in retaliation for zealous investigation of the September 2, 2010 shooting death of Michelle O'Connell in BANKS' home.

I like Henry Dean, who supports the St. Augustine National Historical Park and National Seashore and spearheaded work in the St. Augustine Beach Charter Review Commission on the 35 foot building height limit, after I persisted in suggesting it (over withering opposition from the likes of UCF consultant Marilyn Crotty, a patronizing cognitive miser who argued that charters "should not tie the hands of governments," to which I responded that was exactly what they were intended to do, ever since our Founders wrote the United States Constitution)
But Henry Dean would be wise to turn down contributions from developers and coverup artists from this day forward.  He can be elected without selling out to special interests, like Ben Rich before him.

Candidate : Henry Dean
Office : County Commission - Dist 5

Go Back
Report Date : ALL
Campaign Treasurer's Report - Itemized Contributions
13/4/2016Ken Wilson
9540 San Jose Blvd
Jax, Fl 32257
23/4/2016Gatlin Development Co.
1301 Riverplace Blvd Ste 1900
Jax, Fl 32207
33/4/2016742 Durbin Creek LLC
POBox 23627
Jax, Fl 32241
43/8/2016Eventide Investments
10739 Deerwood Park Blvd
Jax, Fl 32256
53/8/2016Duane L. Ottenstroer TTEE
10739 Deerwood Park Blvd
Jax, Fl 32256
63/8/2016Carol Barice
10414 SW 64th Ave
Bushnell, Fl 33513
73/8/2016Charles Lee
10414 SW 64th Ave
Bushnell, Fl 33513
83/10/2016Nocatee Development Co.
4314 Pablo Oaks Ct
Jax, Fl 32224
93/10/2016Hydry Co. LLC
4314 Pablo Oaks Ct
Jax, Fl 32224
103/10/2016TC Development LLC
4314 Pablo Oaks Ct
Jax, Fl 32224
113/10/2016Sonoc Co LLC
4314Pablo Oaks Ct
Jax, Fl 32224
123/10/2016Kelly Pointe LLC
4314Pablo Oaks Ct
Jax, Fl 32224
133/16/2016LouEm, Inc.
POBox 3146
St Augustine, Fl 32085
143/16/2016Fountain of Youth Properties
11 Magnolia Ave
St Augustine, Fl 32084
153/16/2016Historic Fraser Properties
11 Magnolia Ave
St Augustine, Fl 32084
163/16/2016John Hankinson
9150 Mellon Ct
St Augustine, Fl 32080
173/17/2016Gail Hankinson
9150 Mellon Ct
St Augustine, Fl 32080
183/17/2016Jeb Bush
651 Almeria Ave
Coral Gables, Fl 33134
193/17/2016Robert Lane
401 Fiddlers Point Dr
St Augustine, Fl 32080
203/17/2016Frank Sample
668 Ocean Palm Way
St Augustine, Fl 32080
213/21/2016William Segal Rev Trust
1177 Louisana Ave
Winter Park, Fl 32789
223/21/2016Nile Williamson
411 Hamilton Blvd
Peoria, Il 61602
233/22/2016PBA LLC
20125 SR 80 Box 700
Loxahatchee, Fl 32080
243/22/2016Doug Sessions
2110 Lee Ave
Tallahassee, Fl 32308
253/22/2016AFI Assoc. Inc
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
263/22/2016CBH LLC
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
273/22/2016DWHL LLC
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns , Fl 32092
283/22/2016Elkton Green Inc
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
293/22/2016Hutson Companies LLC
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
303/22/2016N&D Land Trust
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
313/22/2016Oakleaf Plantation LLC
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
323/22/2016RLP Ventures Inc
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
333/22/2016Trout Creek Ventures LLC
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
343/22/2016Whites Ford Timber
111 Nature Walk Pky
St Johns, Fl 32092
353/22/2016Wayne Flowers
940 Lawhon Drive
Jax, Fl 32308
363/26/2016Gray-Robinson P.A.
301 E. Pine St Ste 1400
Orlando, Fl 32801
BusinessLaw FirmCheck$500.00
373/26/2016The Mcleod Firm
1200 Plantation Island Dr.
St Augustine, Fl 32080
BusinessLaw FirmCheck$1,000.00
383/26/2016Pat Hamilton
6989 Charles St
St Augustine, Fl 32080
393/28/2016Mildred Horton
108 Timber Lane
Palatka, Fl 32177
403/28/2016John Rood
3030 Hartley Rd STE 310
Jax, Fl 32257
413/28/2016Jay Landers
5009 Brill Point
Tallahassee, Fl 32312
423/28/2016Marc Vallen
708 Ocean Palm Way
St Augustine, Fl 32080
433/28/2016Don Fullerton
4255 Stacey Rd
Jax, Fl 32250
443/28/2016Bruce-Land Consulting Inc.
310 Magnolia St.
Atlantic Beach, Fl 32233
453/28/2016Environmental Resource Soluti
8711 Perimeter Park Blvd
Jax, Fl 32216
463/9/2016Joy Gossett
7012 Pine Breeze Lane
St Augustine, Fl 32086
473/9/2016Tom Herndon
552 Woodfern Ct
Tallahassee, Fl 32312
483/9/2016Guy Spearman
515 Delannoy Ave
Cocoa, Fl 32922
493/30/2016Kelly Smith
233 Crystal Cove Dr.
Palatka, Fl 32177
503/30/2016Stan Browning
417 Buckhead Ct
Jax, Fl 32259
513/20/2016William Harriss
523/21/2016William Harriss
533/21/2016Mike Register
POBox 166
Seville, Fl 32190
Total Contributions$31,350.00
Campaign Treasurer's Report - In-Kind Contributions
No Activity This Period
Total In-Kind Contributions$0.00
Campaign Treasurer's Report - Itemized Expenditures
13/24/2016Cox Digital Arts
3959 Van Dyke Road
Lutz, Fl 33558
web site designMonetary$690.00
23/9/2016Cheryl Joy Miner
1371 Prince Road
St Augustine, Fl 32086
Candidate photosMonetary$300.00
33/5/2016Brock Mikosky
9804 Montague St
Tampa, Fl 33626
Consultant feesMonetary$2,000.00
144 2nd St
San Francisco, Ca 92104
Total Expenditures$3,025.00
Campaign Treasurer's Report - Fund Transfers
Nature of
No Activity This Period
Campaign Treasurer's Report - Distributions
Related Exp
No Activity This Period

Jeff Gray Charges Dismissed: SAO7 Memo Found "No Evidence" to Support March 14, 2016 Trespassing Arrest on Public Sidewalk

Ben Rich, Jr., Assistant State's Attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, wrote an impressive legal memorandum Monday, April 25, 2016 explaining why all charges were being dismissed against Jeff Gray, photojournalist-activist for peaceful picketing on the sidewalk in front of his son's school, with a sign stating "First Amendment is Not a Crime." Days later, dismissal of charges still not covered by St. Augustine Record, which gave arrest page-one treatment after having a bulletin on its website March 14, 2016. Wonder why the Record is so slow to report the news? Civil rights violating arrest of Jeff Gray was by deputies of controversial St. Johns County Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, at behest of St. Johns County School Supt. JOSEPH JOYNER and louche lawyer FRANK D. UPCHUCH, III. JOYNER has endorsed SHOAR's re-election.

Record is in bed with SHOAR, having refused to investigate or to cover misconduct by SHOAR since 2005.

Delighted that our local State's Attorney's office here in St. Johns County dismissed all charges against First Amendment hero Jeff Gray.

Dismissal still not reported in The St. Augustine Record, long a pal of School Superintendent JOSEPH JOYNER, Ed.D. and Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, whom JOYNER has endorsed.

Good news: Our 7th Circuit State's Attorney's office is now following at least one part of the National District Attorney's Association National Prosecution Standards, preparing a written memo explaining the dismissal.

[The State's Attorney's office did not follow the National Prosecution Standards before and did not distribute copies of it when I asked last year. No such NDAA-recommended criminal case closing memo was prepared in other cases, including Chief Assistant State's attorney CHRISTOPHER FRANCE's questionable dismissal of a domestic violence case involving ex-Mayor FRANK CHARLES, the Republican former St. Augustine Beach Mayor, after shooting a young man in the testicles and not calling 911) -- FRANCE only wrote a memo after I requested records on the case, the year after the case was dropped.]

Here's the full text of the memo written by Assistant State's Attorney Ben Rich, Jr. on Monday, April 25, 2016, inter alia explaining why the State of Florida has dismissed all charges against videojournalist-activist Jeffrey Marcus Gray, arrested by St. Johns County Sheriff's deputies at the behest of St. Johns County School Board in retaliation for First Amendment protected activity:


2022 ST AUGUSTINE, FL 32084 
PHONE: (904) 209-1620 FAX: (904) 209-1621
April 25, 2016

This memorandum reflects a review of the March 14, 2016 incident wherein Jeffrey Marcus Gray was arrested by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office for “trespassing within school safety zone” in violation of § 810.0975, Florida Statutes. The arrest took place on a public sidewalk just outside of St. Augustine High School located at 3205 Varella Ave., St. Augustine, Florida. Mr. Grays arrest was videotaped by a member of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. The video indicates that at the time of his arrest Mr. Gray was in possession of an Apple Iphone, Canon camera with video capability, and a large sign. The sign had the following handwritten statements: “Public Records Access IS Not A Crime” as well as “The First Amendment Is Not A Crime”.  (Emphasis added).
The arrest video reflects law enforcement making contact with Mr. Gray and informing him that he was trespassing within the “500 foot school safety zone”. Law enforcement also informs Mr. Gray that he has been previously warned not trespass within the school safety zone. Mr. Gray responds to law enforcement that he is engaged in a lawful protest and not violating the law. Mr. Gray is then taken into custody and transported to the St. Johns County Jail where he was booked on one count of “trespass within school safety zone” in violation of Florida Statute § 810.0975.
Prior to the March 14th arrest of Mr. Gray outside of St. Augustine High School, the Superintendent of Schools for the St. Johns County School District as well as the Principal of St. Augustine High School delivered written trespass warnings to Mr. Gray. The written trespass warnings informed Mr. Gray that he was not authorized, licensed or invited to enter onto any property of the St. Johns County School Board and that any entry onto School Board properties would constitute a trespass. The warnings also provided that Mr. Gray was not to enter or remain within the “School Safety Zone” pursuant to Florida Statute § 810.0975. The written warnings did provide that Mr. Gray would be allowed entry onto St. Johns County School Board properties for the purposes of attending School Board meetings or other duly-noticed public meetings, to submit public records requests at the School Board headquarters, and to drop off/pick up his children. The trespass warning from the superintendent also provided that the principal could consider entry upon school property for the purpose of visiting the Mr. Gray’s child[ren]’s schools for other legitimate purposes upon advanced request.
The sidewalk where Mr. Gray is alleged to have trespassed is not St. Johns County School Board property. The sidewalk is a public sidewalk and within the 60 foot right-of-way; however, where Mr. Gray was standing at the time of his arrest was approximately 40 feet from the front doors of the St. Augustine High school. Mr. Gray was well within the 500 foot School Safety Zone as defined by F.S. § 810.0975.
Florida Statute § 810.0975 School safety zones; definition; trespass prohibited; penalty
(1) For the purposes of this sections, the term “school safety zone” means in, on, or within 500 feet of any real property owned by or leased to any public or private elementary, middle, or high school or school board and used for elementary, middle, or high school education.
(2)(a) Each principal or designee of each public or private school in this state shall notify the appropriate law enforcement agency to prohibit any person from loitering in the school safety zone who does not have legitimate business in the school safety zone or any other authorization, license, or invitation to enter or remain in the school safety zone.
(b)1. During the period from 1 hour prior to the start of a school session until 1 hour after the conclusion of a school session, it is unlawful for any person to enter the premises or trespass within a school safety zone or to remain on such premises or within such school safety zone when that person does not have legitimate business in the school safety zone or any other authorization, license, or invitation to enter or remain in the school safety zone.
2. a. Except as provided in sub-subparagraph b., a person who violates this subsection commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
b. A person who violates this subsection and who has been previously convicted of any offense contained in chapter 874 commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(c)1. Except as provided in subparagraph 2., a person who does not have legitimate business in the school safety zone or any other authorization, license, or invitation to enter or remain in the school safety zone who shall willfully fail to remove himself or herself from the school safety zone after the principal or designee, having reasonable belief that he or she will commit a crime or is engaged in harassment or intimidation of students entering or leaving school property, requests him or her to leave the school safety zone commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
2. A person who violates subparagraph 1. and who has been previously convicted of any offense contained in chapter 874 commits a misdemeanor or the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.
(3) This section does not abridge or infringe upon the right of any person to peaceably assemble and protest.  (emphasis added)
(4) This section does not apply to residents or persons engaged in the operation of a licensed commercial business within the school safety zone.
F.S. § 810.0975 does have negative history. In GRAY v. KOHL, 568 F.Supp.2d 1378 (2008), a U.S. District Court in southern Florida found provisions of § 810.0975 unconstitutionally vague as to violate due process. Specifically, the Court held that “[s]ubsections 2(a) and 2(b) of § 810.0975, Florida Statutes, are declared unconstitutionally vague” and “permanently enjoined” the State of Florida and its officers from enforcing those subsections. It should be noted that GRAY v. KOHL is not controlling, but is persuasive authority.
Furthermore, review of the legislative history of § 810.0975 gives insight concerning the intent of the statute. It was the legislature’s intent in the construction of this law to protect children by creating a 500 foot buffer zone around all schools so that “persons such as drug dealers, gang members, or pedophiles” could be kept a safe distance from children while arriving to, attending, or leaving school. See also J.L.S. v. STATE, 947 So.2d 641 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2007). In the case at hand, there is no evidence that would lead one to a reasonable suspicion that Mr. Gray was engaged in any of the conduct sought to be prohibited by § 810.0975.  (Emphasis added).
In 2013, § 810.0975 was amended adding subsections (3) and (4) were made to § 810.0975. The addition of these subsections was to ensure that the 1st Amendment rights of Florida’s citizens would not be infringed upon by the enactment and enforcement of § 810.0975. Pertinent to this case is subsection (3) which permits peaceful protest within the school safety zone.
In conclusion, there is no evidence that at any point during the March 14, 2016 incident Mr. Gray entered or remained on St. Johns County School Board property after having been warned not to trespass, (emphasis added) therefore, § 810.09 (Trespass in structure or conveyance) and § 810.08 (Trespass on property other than structure or conveyance) do not apply as Mr. Gray did not enter onto the premises of St. Augustine High School or any of its structures. Second, at the time of his arrest, Mr. Gray was standing on a public sidewalk within the school safety zone holding a sign in protest. There is no evidence or testimony that could lead a person to a reasonable belief that Mr. Gray was preparing to commit a crime or was engaged in harassing students, and therefore, § 810.0975(c)1 does not apply. There is no testimony or evidence that Mr. Gray’s conduct disrupted or disturbed any of the students of St. Augustine High School on March 14, 2016. After considering all of the evidence and testimony concerning this particular incident, given the totality of the circumstances in this case, the evidence does not meet the standards established for criminal prosecution.  (Emphasis added)