They arrested PINAC reporter Jeff Gray this week.
The Florida deputies failed to find Jeff Gray on school property at St. Augustine High School, they failed to issue a trespass warning, and they relied on what is probably an unconstitutional “school safety zone” trespassing law to arrest the PINAC reporter, who did nothing more than protest unfair treatment by the school district educating his children in north Florida this week.
PINAC News reported earlier this week that the nature of the arrest is purely retaliatory, because Gray has committed no crime other than investigating school bus safety, as is his right as a member of the free press.
The original PINAC report shows how the officers waffled about what to charge him with after the arrest, as the PINAC reporter rotted in jail waiting for a hearing, instead of being released on his own recognizance as most registered voters will be for minor offenses.
First, Gray was charged with a common trespassing charge, which requires, you know, actually trespassing on a property, not near a property on the public sidewalk.
Only later the north Florida deputies decided to try the “school safety zone” charges instead.
Just look at the letter below, and you’ll see that the Principal of St. Augustine High School warned Gray to stay away from “[NAME OF SCHOOL]” and cited Florida Statute 810.097 which is actually a completely different statute, and one which can only be enforced if a person enters school grounds, which Gray did not.
Principal DeArmas Graham never gave the deputies a “school safety zone” warning letter, nor sent one to Gray by certified mail as part of the package of 38 censorship letters demanded by St. Johns County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joseph Joyner who can be reached at (904) 547-7502.
The abominable “school safety zone” requires “each principal” or his designee to issue the warning, hence the absurd 38 letter package.
(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, or license to enter or remain in the school safety zone or does not otherwise have invitee status in the designated safety zone.
A St. Johns County Judge still required a $250 bail after the arraignment hearing, and refused to even listen to a reading of the statute, which says expressly: “(3) This section does not abridge or infringe upon the right of any person to peaceably assemble and protest.”
“I don’t know why they kept me in shackles during the arraignment,” said Gray who spent the day in jail because St. Johns County won’t release anyone on bond after 5pm and prolonged his booking process, “because the judge was on a television and not even in the same room.”
Jeff Gray was holding a sign saying, “The First Amendment is Not a Crime” in front of St. Augustine High School when four St. Johns County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and arrested him in under a minute.
In that case, Thomas Gray, a member of the Gideons handing out bibles near schools successfully challenged the Florida “school safety zones” law as unconstitutional for being vague and lacking proper provisions for notice. The relevant part of the ruling states:
Subsections 2(a) and 2(b) of § 810.0975, Florida Statutes, are declared unconstitutionally vague. The State of Florida and its officers are hereby permanently enjoined from enforcing these subsections.
Florida’s legislature changed the law in 2013, but did nothing to comport with the Federal ruling, so it’s likely that the state may not be enjoined from enforcement, but it’s a pretty dubious idea for the state to take up a law already invalid, and fail to do anything to fix it.
Lawmakers did note that the purpose of the school safe zones is, “An act relating to criminal gang prevention,” which means that St. Johns deputies and school Superintendent Dr. Joyner must think of PINAC a ‘reporter gang.’
But St. Johns County must be its own Country, since it has got own rules which don’t include any of the free speech or open government laws of Florida like the Sunshine Law, or the Constitution, both of which should expressly prohibit the kind of arrest Jeff Gray broadcast on Bambuser this past Monday morning.
If you’re concerned about school officials overstepping the boundaries of their offices, operators are standing by to take your calls to Dr. Joseph Joyner at (904) 547-7502.