Melbourne, Florida — Melbourne hemp advocate Glenn Pinfield is suing the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office for violating his civil rights when he was arrested almost four years ago for passing out leaflets in front of the Moore Justice Center criticizing the county judiciary and law enforcement.
The misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges from the arrest were dismissed in October after the state attorney withdrew after reviewing Pinfield’s motion to dismiss, in which the arresting officer admitted that Pinfield did not block the courthouse entrance or get loud before his arrest.
“It’s pretty frustrating when you’re treated like a common criminal, and you know you’re not a criminal,” Pinfield said Friday, a day after filing suit in the U.S. Middle District Court in Orlando.
Sheriff Phil Williams could not be reached for comment.
Pinfield claims the Sheriff’s Office violated his constitutional rights under the First Amendment for suppression of his speech and under the Fourth Amendment for unreasonable seizure when he was arrested by Deputy Roy Osborne on April 21, 1997.
He also claims his rights were further violated when he was arrested a second time for failing to appear at a hearing on the leafletting charge that he said neither he nor his attorney, Mark Tietig, were notified about.
Pinfield was arrested in the courthouse while on his way to another hearing on the leafletting charge, by the same deputy who arrested him the first time.
“The second arrest was obviously a set-up,” Pinfield said.
The failure to appear charge was dropped, but only after Pinfield had spent several hours in the Brevard County jail in Sharpes.
“People don’t usually think about political prisoners in the U.S., but I’m here to tell you otherwise,” Pinfield said.
Having the charges dropped doesn’t erase the arrests, the time, stress, money and lost opportunities due to those arrests for distributing leaflets, Tietig said.
“It’s clear his rights were violated and that sheriff’s deputies violated those rights,” Tietig said.
Pinfield’s compaints about the judiciary stems from his arrest and trial for having a hemp festival at Wickham Park after the county refused to grant a permit for the two-day event. The pamphlets criticized former County Judge John C. Adkins, who presided over that earlier trial in January 1996 in which he fined Pinfield and two other hemp demonstrators for meeting without a permit, playing amplified music without a license and refusing to leave the park when ordered.
Those fines were later thrown out.
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