For the fifth time since 2010, Florida prosecutors were forced to dismiss criminal charges against PINAC reporter Jeff Gray before even going to trial, proving once again what we have known all along.
That his arrests are always unlawful and unconstitutional; nothing but an attempt to keep him from doing his job.
The latest case was dismissed Monday; the trespassing charge from last month where he was standing on the sidewalk in front of St. Augustine High School holding up a sign that read “The First Amendment is Not a Crime” on one side and “Public Records Access is Not a Crime” on the other side.
St. Johns County Schools Superintendent Joseph Joyner had barred Gray from stepping within 500 feet of any school to keep him from investigating safety oversights regarding school buses.
The trespass order stated he was only allowed to drop off or pick up his children, attend public meetings or submit public records requests to the district’s main office. Other than that, he needed to stay outside the “School Safety Zones,” which is defined as 500 feet within any school. Even if his three children attend the school as they do.
However, Joyner and his lawyers failed to do their research because Florida law does not bar citizens from peacefully assembling and protesting within these so-called school safety zones, which is exactly what he had been doing on March 14 when he was arrested.
We have highlighted that provision of the law below to point out that it is not that hard to miss, especially for somebody in the education field.
But Joyner has been desperate to jail Gray, even trying to convince a local state attorney to file felony wiretapping charges against him last year as we discovered by making a public records request for his emails.
Joyner has also filed a lawsuit against Gray, which is still pending.
But Gray is not showing any signs of backing down from his journalistic investigations on the school district.
“I have proof of criminal activities committed by St. Johns County School District employees, yet the St. Johns County School Board ignores their own employees criminal conduct while they attempt to criminalize me for exercising my constitutionally protected rights,” he said.
“I am happy to see that the state attorneys office refuses to play along with the school boards effort to trample our civil liberties.”