Sheriff Who Declared War on Porn Hit With Civil Rights Suit
LAKELAND, Fla. — The Polk County, Fla., sheriff who declared war on the production and distribution of porn in his county after the arrest of adult performer Kimberly Kupps on obscenity charges in June has been hit with a federal lawsuit.
The suit, which seeks a restraining order against Sheriff Grady Judd and his deputies, says that the sheriff's force has created a campaign of retaliation against a woman based on her beliefs as an athiest.
EllenBeth Wachs, the legal coordinator for Athiests of Florida, has asked the court to prevent Judd from conducting any new investigations, arrests or complaints resulting from her viewpoint in the predominantly Christian-oriented Polk County.
Judd's actions, including two arrests and searches of her house, violated her 1st Amendment rights and her right to due process, according to the suit filed by the same attorney representing Kupps — Lawrence G. Walters.
Walters said in the suit that the Polk County Sheriff's Department operates "under their own set of rules purportedly dictated by perceived, ultra-conservative societal mores in Polk County."
"For example, over the course of his tenure as sheriff, Judd has conspired to deprive residents of Polk County of their right to access virtually any form of erotic speech or entertainment through a concerted effort to intimidate any purveyor of such entertainment through over-zealous law enforcement efforts, including routine use or threats of serious racketeering charges against businesses disseminating the disfavored speech (and their landlords) in exchange for agreements to censor their speech-related activities," the suit said.
The suit continues to discuss how Judd has been vigilant in seeking out individuals who don't go along with his philosophy, pointing to the Kupps case where she was charged with 13 felony obscenity counts for relating to her website, as well as Phillip Greaves, author of "The Pedophile's Guide," who was arrested for obscenity last year.
"Judd has even gone to the lengths of investigating website operators and convenience store clerks who distribute common forms of adult-oriented media in their jurisdiction," the suit said.
"More recently, Judd initiated an unjustified, unwarranted obscenity investigation and manufactured jurisdiction over a Colorado resident with no ties to Polk County for publishing a controversial book that had become the subject of national media attention, by convincing the writer to send his last copy to investigators in response to their request."
Wachs, an advocate for separation of church and state, has complained about a number of instances where the sheriff has crossed the line. And she has been arrested too.
The latest incident played out in May for moaning from an open window in her house, saying, “Oh, John" as a ploy to stop neighbors from playing basketball. The Sheriff’s Department arrested her on a felony sex charge.
Later, deputies searched her house and took away a safe, which they say contained marijuana, another charge. They also conducted a forensic examination of her computers at her residence.
The battle between Wachs and Judd dates to last year when the sheriff removed the basketball hoops from the Polk County jail and donated them to several local churches.
A nonpracticing lawyer, Wachs, who filed several public-records requests relative to the hoops being donated to a religious institution, signed the requests with the designation esquire after her name. Judd later sent deputies to arrest her and charged her in March with illegally posing as a lawyer, a felony.
Walters has asked a federal judge to "put a stop to this madness.”
“We want to try to stop a rogue sheriff who is abusing his authority as a law enforcement officer to punish a vocal atheist in town for her viewpoint and political beliefs,” he said.
After Kupps was arrested, Judd declared war on the production and distribution of porn in the county.
“We want a wholesome community here, we don’t want smut peddlers,” Judd said, “and if they try to peddle their smut from Polk County or into Polk County we’ll be on them like a cheap suit.”
Walters told XBIZ that the Kupps case will be heating up soon.
"We are awaiting the initial discovery documents from the state, to get more information about the basis for the charges," he said. "We’ll be filing some motions and setting some depositions soon."
In the meantime, Kupps legal defense fund has gotten off the ground, he said.
"Lots of $10 and $20 donations," he said. "Of course she could use a lot more financial assistance, but it’s nice to see that people care about this case."