A Florida sheriff who bluntly tweeted about arresting evacuees with warrants who were seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma is being sued for violating the Fourth Amendment by requiring background checks to enter hurricane shelters.
But Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd claims the lawsuit is “frivolous”.
“They filed that lawsuit for free press and it’s obviously frivolous. I have a nationwide profile and they see it as an opportunity for nationwide press,” Judd told the Orlando Sentinel.
The complaint, which was submitted on September 10 to the 10th Judicial Circuit Court electronically, was filed by Andres Borreno, who claims Sheriff Judd violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizure during a “crisis situation” after being forced to undergo a background check as he tried to seek shelter from Hurricane Irma.
Borreno claims deputies at the shelter never informed him he was suspected of a crime at the time he entered the shelter.
He also alleges in the suit that the shelters set up in Polk County were pedestrian “checkpoints” and used to conduct “fishing expeditions to find any possible basis, no matter how tenuous, for issuing citations to or arresting human beings seeking refuge from a Class 5 hurricane” and argues trying to gain entry into an emergency shelter to save one’s life and the lives of family members does not” constitute suspicion for criminal conduct.
After receiving criticism for targeting those with even petty warrants, Judd claimed his tweets were aimed at registered sex offender in order to prevent them from entering shelters.
“If you go to a shelter for #Irma and you have a warrant, we’ll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders and predators,” he tweeted later.
We reported last week how critics of his twitter threats responded, making the point that registered sex offenders wouldn’t necessarily have warrants.
Others asked if there would be a shelter specifically designated to registered sex offenders.
Judd responded by establishing a designated area in the jail for sex offenders, where he assured the public offenders were free to come and go at any time.