Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Alachua, FL -- MAYOR JEAN CALDERWOOD ORDERS ELECTORAL REFORM ADVOCATE CHARLIE GRAPSKI ARRESTED AT CITY COMMISSION MEETING, POLICE CHIEF CHARGES HIM WITH FELONY
University of Florida Doctoral candidate and electoral reform advocate Charlie Grapski spent the night in jail Monday night after being dragged out of Alachua City Hall in handcuffs by Alachua Police Chief Robert Jernigan and several police officers.
Mayor Jean Calderwood directed Chief Jernigan to remove Grapski from a public city commission meeting for allegedly disrupting the meeting. Calderwood is a named defendant in an election fraud lawsuit filed by Grapski and others. City Manager and Police Commissioner Clovis Watson, Jr., another named defendant, appeared to be supervising the arrest.
The city commission was meeting at the school due to the December 3rd fire at Alachua City Hall, which is still being investigated by the State Fire Marshall.
According to eyewitnesses and a videotape of the incident, Grapski appeared to be singled out for special treatment by the mayor, after he turned around to whisper to someone in the row behind him. Grapski was then summarily ordered to leave the meeting by Mayor Calderwood, and when he refused, saying he had done nothing to violate any rule or create a disturbance, he was handcuffed by Jernigan.
Jernigan and the APD officers dragged and carried Grapski from the Alachua Elementary School cafeteria and put him in an APD cruiser, while Calderwood temporarily adjourned the city commission meeting
According to the Alachua County Sheriffs Office, Jernigan has charged Grapski with trespassing after warning, disturbing the peace, resisting arrest without violence, and felony resisting arrest with violence.
"What I witnessed last night was an outrageous abuse of power by Alachua city officials and the Chief of Police, and these trumped up charges against Grapski will never hold up in court," said Michael Canney, who witnessed the entire affair. Canney was present at the meeting and videotaped the entire episode. "This is the second time Grapski has been arrested in Alachua by this same group of officials, and once Grapski has his day in court I`m confident these politically motivated charges will be dismissed just as the first charges were."
At no time did Charlie Grapski disrupt the meeting, and his only resistance to the arrest was to become passive and refuse to leave the premises as ordered by the mayor. Grapski clearly stated to the mayor that he was not disrupting anything, and that he was there to participate in a quasi-judicial hearing and his rights were being violated by the mayor and Chief Jernigan.
Grapski is currently being held in the Alachua County Jail on 39th Avenue in Gainesville.The Grapski Defense Committee is beginning the search today for a criminal defense attorney, and raising funds for his bond, which has not yet been set. Donations can be made online at www.grapskidefense.org or by mail to: Grapski Defense, PO Box 190, Alachua FL 32616. For more information call 386-418-3791 Updates will soon become available on The Alachua Project: http://freealachua.org and on the Grapski Defense site.