REMOVAL OF RECORDS A FELONY IN THE SUNSHINE STATE
by Sharon Rondeau
(Sep. 30, 2014) — In an attempt to report what he saw as a clear violation of Florida statute, former Dixie County grand jury foreman Terry Trussell filed a “Bill of Information” on August 11, 2014 in the county courthouse which was stamped by court clerk Dana C. Johnson.
Dixie County is part of Florida’s Third Judicial Circuit. Each clerk of court is “an elected public trustee” with a term of four years. According to DixieClerk.com, “The Clerk’s office performs nearly 1,000 different constitutional and statutory functions or duties, representing the broadest and most diverse mantle of responsibility of any locally elected official.”
Trussell was appointed grand jury foreman by Judge Cynthia Munkittrick after being empaneled into the grand jury in April according to Florida law and volunteering to assume the leadership role. Grand jury terms in Florida are six months.
After a citizen submitted what he believed was evidence of a crime committed in the county involving the Common Core Educational Standards to Trussell for the grand jury’s consideration, Trussell notified state’s attorney Jeffrey Siegmeister that he wished to call together the grand jury to deliberate the evidence. Trussell had wanted to summon the grand jurors himself, but Siegmeister told him that their identities must be kept secret, even from him. Siegmeister therefore notified each grand juror by mail that his or her service was needed, and the body assembled on August 1.
On that day, Siegmeister appeared with a court reporter, bailiff and personal assistant and insisted on being present during the grand jury deliberations. However, Florida law states that when the grand jurors are deliberating without witnesses, no one is to be in the room, including the state’s attorney. The statutory wording reads:
(3) No person shall be present while the grand jurors are deliberating or voting, except that an interpreter appointed pursuant to s. 90.6063(2) may be present after swearing to refrain from personal interjection and to uphold the secrecy of the proceeding.
Trussell described Siegmeister as not only being present in the grand jury room for its deliberations, but also as having influenced its members by his gestures and body language while Trussell presented the evidence submitted to him by the citizen.
Trussell then attempted to alert Munkittrick about Siegmeister’s conduct but was told that she no longer handled grand jury matters. The senior circuit judge, Greg Parker, alleged later that he was present in the courthouse that day such that Trussell could have availed himself of his assistance, but Trussell was not informed of that on August 1 or at any time the following week.
Trussell told The Post & Email that he believes in the American form of government and its institutions. He believed it was his duty to the citizens of Dixie County, based on the oath he swore as a grand juror and as foreman, to report Siegmeister’s alleged violation of law. After receiving no assistance from Munkittrick, Parker, or the county sheriff, he was relieved to learn that the sheriff, not knowing what to do, referred the matter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
Because the grand jury convened by Munkittrick was compromised, Trussell presented the evidence to a Common Law Grand Jury comprising 25 citizens of the county for consideration. Along with the Common Core concern, Trussell presented the evidence he possessed against Siegmeister, as he had attempted to do with Munkittrick and Parker through the Dixie County court.
The Common Law Grand Jury was seated in the Dixie County courthouse when it produced two True Bills, meaning that it had found probable cause to believe that two sets of crimes had been committed. Trussell did not convene nor vote with the Common Law Grand Jury, but filed the True Bills with the clerk of the court on August 14, who assigned them each a number.
After being questioned by officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on August 16 and 18, respectively, on September 2, Trussell was arrested without a valid warrant or grand jury indictment and charged with ten felony counts of “violation of Criminal actions under color of Law or through use of simulated legal process.”
An FDLE officer stated in an affidavit charging Trussell with ten felonies states on page 4:
The fact that Mr. Trussell did not like the way Mr. Siegmeister conducted that session of the Dixie County Statutory Grand Jury directly led to a True Bill being issued by the People’s Grand Jury Under Common Law in which Mr. Trussell is the Foreperson. Instead of following the procedures in place to remove Mr. Siegmeister from the Dixie County Statutory Grand Jury, Mr. Trussell instead formed a People’s Grand Jury Under Common [sic] in an attempt to influence, intimidate, or hinder Mr. Siegmeister through Simulated Legal Process, the True Bill issued by the People’s Grand Jury under Common Law under Common Law in Dixie County, Florida.
Over the weekend of August 2 and 3, Trussell documented his observations of Siegmeister’s behavior in a seven-page narrative. On Monday, August 4, he called the courthouse and told the clerk that there had been a problem with the grand jury on Friday, asking when he could drop off his document detailing the events to Judge Munkittrick. He was told that Munkittrick was in court that morning and would not be available until about 4:00 p.m. Trussell said that he therefore planned to take the document in to Munkittrick at 4:00 p.m. However, at approximately 2:00 p.m., Munkittrick’s secretary called and told Trussell, “Judge Munkittrick is no longer involved in the grand jury. It’s all being shifted over to Greg Parker,” the chief judge of the Third Judicial Circuit working primarily in Perry, Taylor County, an hour away. “Now what do I do?” Trussell asked, to which he was told, “You’ll just have to talk to him.”
Trussell further explained:
They gave me no contact information for him, and I said, “Well, look, I’m just going to bring these documents to Munkittrick; she can do what she wants to with them; I’ve done my job.” And that’s where I left it. I brought them down, and I just happened to catch her coming out of her office. I handed the documents to her, and she said, “I’m too busy to look at them now,” and I said, “That’s not important, but do look at them and then you need to call me to see how we’re going to resolve this situation.” That’s where we left it. She had an armful of folders and she just walked out. My thought was, “She’ll fax them up to him. I’m not getting to get in my car and driving an hour.”
Ultimately, Trussell did not receive a response from Munkittrick. He further said:
The next day was when I went in and filed all of those documents because I said, “I need to protect myself. I have done this; I have been abandoned by the state attorney; I’ve been abandoned by the court; I need something on record somewhere that will explain what happened here.” So that’s when I went and filed it with the clerk of court. Those documents were replaced, after I filed them – and I do have the certified copies – by blank pages. So they have removed all of the documents that I filed with them.
If you look at the little sticker that’s on there from the state attorney’s office, the only difference in those two stickers is the clerk’s initials, not because they are both “CH,” but you can tell they were written at two different times. Look at the time stamp on them: the ones that I filed are time-stamped at 1:25 in the afternoon. They were replaced by the documents Munkittrick signed. I’m not saying she had anything to do with this “switcheroo.” All I’m saying is that the clerk then had to go back and manipulate that automated time-stamp machine. If you look at those two stickers, it’s obvious. They have exactly the same book number, exactly the same page number; everything is exactly the same except the time. The replacing documents were done at 3:08 p.m., about an hour and 40 minutes after I filed mine.
You cannot manipulate anything that’s in a court file; that is sacrosanct. It’s a three-year sentence, a felony. The way I’m looking at it is she pulled my documents out, removed them from the file, and the intent is clear, because she replaced them with other documents with the same indicia but a different time. To me, that’s four felonies: the fact that she removed them and the fact that she replaced them.
I don’t know how the ones that have been left as blank documents will be counted or explained. She did tell me that at one point, she had to hold those files out of public view because they were related to the grand jury. And I said, “Well, now, wait a minute; this has nothing to do with the grand jury because the grand jury has been nullified.” One of the documents stated that. I told her, “So that was not a grand jury session; that was not secret.” And she said, “Well, the state attorney told me…” Well, of course he did, because I was making allegations of criminality about him.
Trussell sent The Post & Email the two pages he filed with the court clerk bearing the court’s official stamp indicating that they were assigned to Record Book #469, page numbers 467 and 468, respectively. As he told us, the two pages are stamped “1:25 PM.”
However, the two pages appear to have been replaced by two others which are unrelated to Trussell. Those two pages, which bear the same Record Book number and respective page numbers as Trussell’s two-page submission, now appear as:
Through a public records request made on Tuesday for pages 467 and 468 from Record Book 469, The Post & Email obtained the same two pages appearing directly above. The email sent to us by Dana Johnson containing those two pages reads:
Subject: RE: PUBLIC RECORDS ACT REQUEST
Date: Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:05:23 -0400
Attached please find the requested copies.
Dixie County Clerk of Court
P O Box 1206
Cross City FL 32628
The attachment Johnson sent is here: Dixie OR book 469 pp 467 468 from Court Clerk Dana Johnson
The time stamp reads “3:08 PM” on the second set of documents.