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Grapski files lawsuit against sheriff

Judge dismisses contempt charge

GAINESVILLE – One-time State House and City of Alachua Commission Candidate Charles Grapski has filed a lawsuit against Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell.  In the complaint, he alleges wrongdoing on the part of jail officials when he was held there in 2007.

The suit filed last week stems from Grapski’s incarceration at the jail after being arrested for battery on Alachua Police Department officers four years ago.  He claims in the six-page complaint that he was improperly strip searched by two corrections officers, Brenda Spencer and Lee Jackson.

According to the complaint, at least one of those officers was female, making it unlawful for her to conduct a strip search on a male inmate.

Moreover, he claims the correctional officers failed to obtain written authorization from a supervising officer on duty.

“Spencer, Jackson and others violently forced Grapski onto the concrete floor in the strip search room,” the political activist wrote in the lawsuit.  “The violence Spencer, Jackson and others expressed against Grapski caused him to be bruised and contused, to suffer chemical burns and pain in his eyes, to suffer difficulty breathing and to become extremely ill from the chemicals in the mace.”

Although Grapski did not mention it in his lawsuit, charges were filed against him for allegedly knocking one of the corrections officers to the ground and causing her injuries.

Following the incident in the strip search room, Grapski was reportedly taken to a solitary cell where he says medical treatment was not provided.  He reports later passing out and hitting his head on a metal bench and the concrete floor.

Grapski alleges that he was strapped to a chair for several hours, and being denied medical treatment in spite of his requests.  This caused him to become sicker, and eventually admitted to the Alachua County Detention Center (ACDC) medical unit, he wrote.

“As a result of Sheriff’s practices and custom of providing inadequate medical care, training and supervision in ACDC Grapski suffered severe illness including kidney failure,” he wrote.

He asserted, “After being ill and throwing up, Grapski lost consciousness and fell unconscious in the ACDC medical unit.”

Described as a “coma” by Grapski, he blames his condition on the ACDC, although he had admitted publicly to engaging in a hunger strike.

The suit charges that Spencer and Jackson intentionally battered Grapski in “wanton disregard of his human rights and safety and causing him to suffer physical injuries and pain and suffering.”

The Sheriff had “negligently and inadequately” supervised, trained and instructed staff that caused physical injuries and pain to Grapski, the suit also charges.

In another charge, Grapski wrote that he was denied adequate medical care.  He also points to the United States Constitution in stating that he was denied rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, presumably his right to due process.

Contempt charge dismissed

Judge James Nilon dismissed, Tuesday afternoon, criminal contempt of court charges against Grapski.

The charge resulted from Grapski’s alleged actions and statements made on June 21 in Nilon’s courtroom.

But in the brief hearing Tuesday, the judge granted Grapski’s motion to dismiss the charges on the basis of procedural flaws.

In the motion, Grapski argued that a sworn affidavit of the alleged events did not accompany the charging documents and that the Assistant State Attorney filing the contempt charges was not witness to the June 21 events.

Speaking on behalf of Grapski, University of Florida Law Professor Joseph Little noted that a sworn affidavit had only just been placed into the file, but was not with the original order as required by law.

Nilon concurred with Little stating that he received the affidavit Tuesday and hadn’t reviewed it yet.

Assistant State Attorney Brian S. Kramer responded saying, “The defendant is asking you to engage in a farce.”

But Nilon disagreed, granting Grapski’s motion to dismiss.  “I think it’s important to follow the procedures,” Nilon said.

But Grapski isn’t off the hook yet.  In response to the dismissal, Kramer said, “We will have [the new petition and sworn affidavit] by tomorrow, your honor.”

The petition alleging Grapski’s contemptuous behavior came after a June 21 violation of probation hearing in which it is reported that he approached the podium and told Assistant State Attorney Shawn Thompson to “get a real job.”

At a later hearing on the same day, Grapski allegedly approached the table of Thompson in an “aggressive manner,” pointed his finger at Thompson and stated to him, “you are a f---ing liar” not less than two times, the order alleges.

Grapski re-files federal complaint against Alachua

Grapski met the Sept. 9 deadline to file an amended complaint in his federal lawsuit against the City of Alachua.

Last month, Federal District Court Judge Maurice Paul denied several motions by the City of Alachua and others defending themselves from the lawsuit.

In his ruling, Paul required Grapski to file an amended complaint.  The judge agreed that Grapski’s lawsuit was too ambiguous in many respects, but said he could continue with the case provided clarity is given.

“The plaintiff shall file a second amended complaint by Friday, September 9, 2011, which more clearly articulates the specific conduct and charges applicable to each defendant,” Judge Paul wrote.

The lawsuit alleges a host of federal violations including several constitutional abridgments.  Grapski is claiming that his rights to freedom of speech, equal protection and against illegal searches and seizures were violated when he was removed from at least one Alachua City Commission Meeting in 2006 and handcuffed on two occasions.

The submission earlier this month marks the second amended complaint in the case.