By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
The young man called "Dreads" is a slippery character; the justice system can't seem to hold on to him. You might remember Dreads from our May 3 cover story, "Beach Beat." He was one of the guys who attacked 18-year-old Chris Caulfield on Fort Lauderdale beach. Caulfield was left with a broken nose, big medical bills, and the memory of Dreads' face seared into his brain.
Because police didn't immediately start investigating the attack, Caulfield and his private-eye father, Max, returned to the beach, spotted Dreads, and called 911. When police showed up and conducted a classic shakedown, they busted Dreads not for the beating (a detective wasn't available) but for possession of marijuana. Dreads identified himself as Curtis Peele and was booked into the city jail during the early-morning hours of March 31.
Then, after authorities released Dreads/ Peele that same morning, our men in blue discovered he was actually Corey Sessoms, a 24-year-old from Norfolk, Virginia, who was wanted for violating probation on a cocaine charge. The violation was for, among other things, fighting. The cops tracked down Sessoms and booked him on April 7.
On May 28, after Sessoms had again been released, he was again charged with violating his probation, based on the March 31 marijuana infraction. A new warrant was issued for his arrest.
Meanwhile the beating investigation proceeded at a snail's pace. Fort Lauderdale P.D. detective Mike Hoelbrandt told New Times it would be tough to prosecute because the victim, Caulfield, had been smoking pot -- which we all know from the flick Reefer Madness leads to blood lust and violence on an epic scale.
Hoelbrandt turned over the results of his investigation to the state attorney's office, which, despite the presence of the demon weed, decided to prosecute Sessoms for aggravated battery, a felony punishable by as many as five years in prison. That was last month. The problem: Sessoms is gone.
"We have no idea where he is," says his probation officer, Paul Whatley.
Sessoms is indeed slippery. The authorities added the grease.
Speaking of reefer madness, the strange and terrible saga of former Sandpiper Elementary principal James E. Lindemannreeks of it.
The School Board of Broward Countysuspended and demoted Lindemann July 18 for smoking pot on a school trip to Pennsylvania in March 2000. It took 16 months because the district was drafting a new, "more equitable" disciplinary policy. Starting this fall Lindemann will be busted to teacher.
And the entertainment value of this case doesn't end there. The school district's own Special Investigative Unit (SIU) took a crack at Lindemann, and Undercurrents snagged a copy of the report. Remember your Cheech and Chong records? Read on, stoners.
It seems Lindemann was kicking in his crib at the Nittany Lion Inn the evening of March 26, 2000, when a couple Penn State University cops harshed his mellow about 10 p.m. Someone in a neighboring suite apparently sniffed the sweet perfume of bud in the air and called The Man. Narcs!
Lindemann was only halfway through his blunt when the fuzz came knocking. He copped immediately and even took the nice officers to the bathroom, where he had three more fat ones stashed in a baggie. He spent the night in the hole, and the next day Centre County District Court Judge Carmine Prestia set his bail at $5000. Bummer.
When the SIU bearded Lindemann upon his return to Florida, the principal told them of a mysterious weed fairy distributing free dank at the oceanside:
SIU investigator David Steele: "How did you come to have that marijuana? Where did you get it?"
Lindemann: "I got it from someone on the beach."
"Which beach in Florida?"
"Fort Lauderdale beach."
"Fort Lauderdale beach before you left?"
"Yes, actually in December."
"How much did you buy in December?"
"I didn't buy it. I got four joints."
"What was the... price of the four joints?"
"I didn't pay for it; they were just given to me."
"Given to you? Do you know who the person was who gave it to you?"
"No, I don't."
At the end of the interview, Steele asked Lindemann if he had anything to add. "No," said the ex-principal, "except that I am very embarrassed and very ashamed and I will never do anything stupid like this again."
He promptly turned himself in to the district's Employee Assistance Program, where he received counseling.
The funny thing is, no charge is pending against him in Pennsylvania. In fact no public record of anyone trying to prosecute him exists in that state. Lindemann managed to get his record expunged August 1, 2000. His lawyer, Roy Lisko, wouldn't comment, and Lindemann didn't return our call. Why then is he being punished at all?
"The school board has the authority to take disciplinary action on its employees," Supt. Frank Tillsays. Till didn't know that Lindemann's arrest had been struck from the record. "The issue isn't whether [the records] were expunged," Till says. "We still have an authority [to punish him]."
We pray Lindemann has been able to free himself from the spiral of drug abuse, or barring that, we hope he's made a return trip to Fort Lauderdale beach. Dude.