Medical marijuana activist John Tracey acted on two eminently reasonable beliefs late last July. The result? He got busted.
Belief 1: That a Black Sabbath concert would provide a mother lode of support for a petition to put a referendum on medical marijuana on this fall's ballot. Belief 2: That the First Amendment is in effect at Cruzan Amphitheatre, since it's owned by the South Florida Fair and is, by state law, public property.
Tracey's petition-gathering (and that of many others) paid off, as all of Florida now knows. But for his efforts that particular July evening, Tracey was hassled by Cruzan staff, who then called the cops, who charged him with trespass and hustled him off to the hoosegow for the night.
The charges were eventually dropped, but Tracey was miffed. "The fuck can I trespass on public property?" he wrote to New Times, shortly after the arrest.
Now it's payback time. Or so Tracey hopes. Last week, his attorney, Michael Minardi, laid the groundwork for a false-arrest suit. Minardi filed a notice of claim with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office (such notice is a legal prerequisite for lawsuits against official bodies) and sent similar notices to the South Florida Fair and to Pavilion Partners, an operations arm of Cruzan's owner, Live Nation.
Citing the "violation of [Tracey's] First Amendment rights" and his being "unlawfully detained without reasonable suspicion" and in compensation for his legal expenses, "time spent incarcerated... loss of work and ability to earn an income getting petitions signed," the notice demands a settlement of $200,000.
In a nice kicker, it also demands "1st Amendment training for all officers, employees, and staff of Pavilion Partners."
"I think the First Amendment training is an important part of making sure our public spaces remain free and open places for public discourse," Tracey told New Times. Other than that, he had this gripe:
"My lawyer forgot my baloney sandwich. With the cheese that doesn't melt. I wanted to frame it."
"I didn't get my sandwich at Gun Club [the county jail]. I had a buddy who used to feed the homeless and got the surplus from Gun Club once. Thought he'd make grilled cheese, but the cheese wouldn't melt, even after he Cajun-blackened the bread. I asked to include the sandwich in the settlement so people would know what's going on in the prison industrial state."
We have not yet been able to reach the PBSO, the South Florida Fair, or Live Nation for comment. We will update if and when we do.
Fire Ant -- an invasive species, tinged bright red, with an annoying, sometimes-fatal sting -- covers South Florida news and culture. Got feedback or a tip? Contact email@example.com.