Events in Polk County, Florida
by: Allen Szczepek
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There are two people here in Florida that have been vocal activists regarding church/state issues, and they have attracted the wrath of local politicians and law enforcement officials. These two, John Kieffer and EllenBeth Wachs, have been targeted by these unscrupulous and bigoted officials for having the audacity to speak out publicly against their illegal, but long standing practices. It started a little over a year ago when EllenBeth discovered that a local well known Sheriff by the name of Grady Judd was in the news for removing the basketball goals from his jail, and giving them to seven local area churches. Judd is in close competition with Joe Arpaio in Arizona who is famous for making his inmates live in tents, and feeding them green bologna, etc. You get the idea. These clowns dislike any minority, but despise non-believers. The pictures Judd had taken of his inmates removing basketball goals in the jail showed older, fairly worn goals. The pictures taken of inmates erecting basketball goals at the churches showed that these goals were new. So it appears that Judd had taken property, purchased with tax dollars for the use of inmates, and given it to local churches using government vehicles and equipment ,inmate labor, and the correctional officers it takes to accomplish such a feat. Only the goals at the churches were new. Hmmm.....
To make a long story a little shorter, EllenBeth inquired into receiving some further info on the whole thing under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act). She signed her requests with "Esq." as she is a retired attorney. Because she is not licensed to practice law in Florida, Judd sent 16 S.W.A.T. officers to her house with a search warrant for "practicing law without a license". Sixteen agents in full tactical garb. No, that is not an exaggeration. Sixteen. Dressed like Ninjas. For writing "Esq." after her name. She was arrested, held in jail as long as possible, and released on bail. A short time later, Judd arrested her for "corrupting a minor" or a charge similar to that, for "making sexual noises" in her own bedroom. It seems that, after a dispute regarding her neighbor's young son making excessive noise one Saturday morning, the neighbor, (a Judd crony), told Judd that EllenBeth was shouting "Oh, John" so loudly from her bedroom that his son could hear her, and his son was "traumatized". He claims it sounded as if she were simulating sexual passion with her "Oh Johns". Judd arrested her once again, and this time put her in solitary confinement "for her own protection". For about a week. Without her medications for M.S. For saying "Oh John" in her own bedroom. Does it really matter how loudly? She was released from jail, and the charges were later dropped, of course. Judd already got his "pound of flesh"... She has incurred a substantial legal debt as a result, and her problems might not be over.
John Kieffer will go to trial later this month for his activism. A local school board was conducting Christian prayers at the start of meetings. FFRF sent them a letter pointing out this is illegal. In an attempt to circumvent the issue, the board decided to pray prior to the start of the meeting. As a local preacher was praying, John and EllenBeth milled about, took pictures, and talked in a conversational tone. Some members of the board found this unacceptable, and as a result, John was arrested by the police officers present for the three charges listed below.* These charges clearly resulted from the fact these clowns did not like the fact that John and EllenBeth were not respecting their ritual, and not the fact that John had committed crimes that may call for over a year of incarceration. The D.A. has just now submitted some kind of legal motion to suppress John's service to his Country during the Vietnam war, and for years afterwards. He is a retired Army Major. They will attempt to malign his character, and wish to suppress his service in support of the Constitution, as well as other facts about John that would serve him well in his defense.
If anyone is interested and wants further info, it can be found at the Atheists of Florida website. I will be attending John's trial in Bartow, Fl. I can only hope he will get a jury of people that will weigh the facts and evidence, and he will be vindicated. I don't know if it is even possible to find such open minded jurors this deep in Bible country. Time will tell. I know I will feel differently about my Country, and about my 28 years of service in support of our Constitution, if a "jury of his peers" puts John in jail for practicing his First Amendment right to free speech.
If you are so inclined, please help get the word out. And any donations to their legal defense will be tremendously appreciated, and money well spent. I sincerely wish I had the means to pay their entire legal debt myself, because I would in a minute. They have both already paid far too much for being concerned American citizens. This is a travesty of justice, and should be made right.
* 843.02 … RESISTING/OBSTRUCTING OFFICER W/OUT VIOLENCE (1st degree misdemeanor; $1000 max. fine; term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year)
877.03 … DISORDERLY CONDUCT (2nd degree misdemeanor; $500 max. fine; term of imprisonment not exceeding 60 days)
871.01 … DISTURBING SCHOOL, RELIGIOUS, OR LAWFUL ASSEMBLY* (2nd degree misdemeanor; $500 max. fine; term of imprisonment not exceeding 60 days)