Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter: He sat by while Deputy violated citizen's rights
Posted May 04, 2012 05:22 pm
COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Columbia County never disappoints when it comes to denying someone their Constitutional rights. Last night was no different, when as citizen Jeffery Brown concluded his 10 minute presentation, Sheriff's Deputy John Hatcher, uninvited, walked from the middle of the auditorium and stood a few feet from him.
This story begins with the bizarre
Mr. Brown was listed as a speaker on the agenda. After Mr. Brown came to the podium and gave his name to the Clerk, Chairwoman Scarlet Frisina asked that the Clerk swear him in. There's nothing in Florida law that requires a speaker to be sworn in, in order to speak to a County Commission about problems one sees. Mr. Brown said he would be glad to do that if the Board also was sworn in. Then, the Clerk swore in the entire Board and Mr. Brown.
Jeffery Brown addresses the County Commission.
"There are problems in this County that have been swept under the rug."
Mr. Brown said that he was in front of the Board to speak about things that happened to him in Columbia County as a pastor, but he was speaking as a citizen.
Mr. Brown said, "Everything I am going to say is not going to be negative, but there are problems in this County that have been swept under the rug."
Mr. Brown told the Board that he wrongfully spent 250 days in the county jail on a misdemeanor.
Mr. Brown told the Board that the conviction was overturned on appeal.
Mr. Brown said that while he was in jail he saw a prisoner that was not given his psychotic medication. He continued, "I did not receive my medication for 10 days."
Mr. Brown said, "I saw a man taken into the bathroom by three deputy sheriffs and beaten almost to his death."
I come here to you with truth, honesty and integrity. I was never arrested for anything in my life until I came to this County.
Mr. Brown told the County Commission, "You don't even have an accredited Sheriff's Office through the Sheriff Association."
He advised the Board that he was formerly a captain in the United States Army during the first Gulf War. "I come here to you with truth, honesty and integrity."
He said, "I was never arrested for anything in my life until I came to this County."
Commissioner DuPree interrupted and spoke without permission. Com DuPree asked Mr. Brown if he knew the Sheriff ran the jail. Mr. Brown answered, "You own it."
Com DuPree told the Board, "I resent this conversation, because it sounds to me like he needs to take this to somewhere else and not here. It ain't right for him to stand at that podium and is makin accusations that no one here knows anything about and the Sheriff not here to defend it or nothin. It ain't right to continue."
It appeared Mr. DuPree did not notice Sheriff Hunter sitting way back in the shadows in the auditorium, his usual spot when he chooses to make one of his rare appearances at the County Commission.
Sometime after that, the Sheriff moved to the front of the auditorium, where he could be seen.
Chairwomen Frisina told Mr. Brown, "If you have something that the Board has control over we'll be happy to hear that."
Mr. Brown asked Chairwomen Frisina if the Board sent a check to the Sheriff every month for his work and she answered in the affirmative.
When Chairwomen Frisina protested that the Board did not run the jail, Mr. Brown responded. "I would think you would be concerned about anything that goes on in this County that's illegal."
Commissioner DuPree interrupted again telling Mr. Brown, "This ain't the proper venue."
Mr. Brown told Mr. DuPree and the Board that the emergency call center withheld evidence "for over one year in my case." Mr. Brown said that the 911 call center was the responsibility of the County.
Commissioner DuPree told Mr. Brown that he didn't care about due process. Commissioner DuPree said, "All you care about is your due process."
Deputy Hatcher hovers over Mr. Brown (Click here to enlarge)
Commissioner Williams received permission from the Chair to address the Board. He said the problem was that Mr. Brown did not receive a tax exemption for his property. "This is the whole deal... The Value Adjustment Board will not give him a free ride and he's pissed about it."
Mr. Brown responded, "You are not correct, but thank you for saying it clearly and distinctly."
Commissioner DuPree interrupted again. He asked Mr. Brown what part of what Commissioner Williams said was not correct.
Mr. Brown answered, "The inability to properly handle the citizens."
Chairwoman Frisina told Mr. Brown, "Your 10 minutes is up two minutes ago."
Mr. Brown continued to address the board.
Chairwoman Frisina, "Mr. Brown -- Mr. Brown."
Mr. Brown, "Yes Ma'am -- I'm going to take 15 seconds, if that's all right with you?"
Chairwomen Frisina, "Go ahead."
Mr. Brown mentioned something about establishing an oversight committee composed of various public officials and citizens.
By this time Sheriff's Deputy John Hatcher had planted himself about 10 feet from Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown, caught up in his conversation, exceeded the 15 seconds. The Chairwomen politely listened and finally said, "Thank you Mr. Brown -- Thank you."
Mr. Brown said, "Thank you," and began packing up his papers.
Here comes the law
Deputy Hatcher then walked over to the podium. Sherriff Hunter was seated a few yards away.
Mr. Brown bent down to pick up his brief case and by this time Deputy Hatcher was hovering over him.
When Mr. Brown stood up and began to put his papers in his brief case, Deputy Hatcher grabbed his sleeve and pointed to the side door, telling him he had to leave.
This was not the first such blatant abuse of police power under the watch of Sheriff Hunter.
Most of the Board did not appear to notice what was going on. The Sheriff had a bird's eye view.
Mr. Brown did not resist or protest. He asked to be able get his tape recorder.
Deputy Hatcher pointed to the door.
Your reporter asked, "Why is he being forced out of the building?"
Someone said, "He's not being forced out of the building."
Your reporter, "He [Hatcher] is taking him out of the building. Why is he being removed?" "Why is he being removed – Under whose direction?"
Your reporter asked the Sheriff, "Why's he being removed? Nobody asked."
Finally, the Sheriff stepped in. Mr. Brown was allowed to take a seat.
Then, after Commissioner DuPree gave his characterization of events, after once again not being recognized by the Chair, Sheriff Hunter came to the podium.
Sheriff Mark Hunter took his turn at the mic after Mr. Brown took a seat.
Sheriff Hunter took the microphone
He said he runs the jail under contract from the County. He said he is proud of the work of his men.
The Sheriff said, "I can assure you we have had no lawsuits filed against the Columbia County Sheriff's Office under my watch."
Sheriff Hunter said, "We will be going for accreditation as soon as the election process is over -- if I am still your Sheriff. It is already in the works and we are going to get started on it immediately after the campaign -- for law enforcement and the detention facility." "I am very proud of what we got out there at the Columbia County Sheriff's office."
Mr. Brown had received no warnings, was not using fighting words, was not menacing and was being polite before Deputy Hatcher grabbed his sleeve and pointed him toward the door.
Fifteen minutes later Mr. Brown would never have made it to the podium. The Columbia County Commission passed a new rule which said, if someone was contemplating or might be contemplating a law suit against the County, they didn't have the right to address the Board.