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“PLAYING GAMES” OR PLAYING IT STRAIGHT?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Oct. 29, 2014) — A Dixie County, FL man jailed for “Failure to Appear” after appearing at his scheduled arraignment on October 9 will be arraigned on Thursday at 10:00 a.m. EDT in the Dixie County courthouse.
Trussell was empaneled into the Dixie County grand jury in April for a six-month term and volunteered to be foreman. His offer was accepted by Judge Cynthia Munkittrick, who was charged with overseeing matters related to the grand jury. On August 1, when the grand jury was assembled to examine evidence submitted by a resident claiming that a crime had been committed in regard to the implementation of the Common Core Educational Standards, Trussell observed Third Judicial Circuit State’s Attorney Jeffrey Siegmeister violating Florida statute when he entered the grand jury deliberations with a staff of three government officials.
Florida statute requires a prosecutor to be present when witnesses are called to testify to the grand jury but prohibits a prosecutor’s presence when the grand jury is simply studying and discussing evidence brought to it.
In two interviews with The Post & Email, Trussell explained that he felt it was his duty to bring the allegations related to Common Core to a grand jury that had not been contaminated by government influence. Having failed to obtain a response from Munkittrick or Judge Greg Parker on his report to them of Siegmeister’s conduct, on August 14, he related to a Common Law Grand Jury of 25 citizens which assembled inside the Dixie County courthouse the information on Common Core and Siegmeister.
The Common Law Grand Jury issued two True Bills which Trussell took to Court Clerk Dana C. Johnson, who stamped and filed them in the standard record book maintained by her office.
A two-page Bill of Information charging Siegmeister and Parker with misconduct and violations of law was also filed by Johnson, then removed with the reported explanation that they had not belonged in the record book in the first place.
On September 2, after two interviews with employees of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) following his Common Law Grand Jury presentation, Trussell was arrested and spent the night in the Dixie County jail before making the $500 bail required for the ten felonies with which he was charged.
A Vietnam combat veteran, Trussell is 70 years old and could be facing 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
After submitting an Open Records request to the FDLE, The Post & Email was told that the agency had no responsive records relating to the arrest of Terry George Trussell. Florida law allows for records to be withheld if a criminal investigation is ongoing.
According to eyewitnesses, many of whom signed sworn affidavits, at his October 9 arraignment hearing, Trussell identified himself as present three times when his name was called. However, Judge James C. Hankinson ordered him jailed without bond for “Failure to Appear,” since which time Trussell has been incarcerated.
On October 16, a group of citizens advocating for Trussell’s release addressed a Dixie County Commissioners’ meeting, with audio provided and narrated by Florida blogger and radio show host Jason Hoyt. The hashtag #JusticeforTerry has provided several updates on Trussell’s case since October 9.
A video of the County Commissioners’ meeting at which citizens spoke on Trussell’s behalf is here.
On October 21, Florida resident Rodger Dowdell reported that a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott had been set to discuss Trussell’s incarceration.
An individual following Trussell’s case closely stated in an email that “times are changing” for the arraignment because “someone is playing games at the Dixie County Court House.”
On October 17, the Unified Common Law Grand Jury issued a Writ of Habeas Corpus Order to Show Cause and a Habeas Corpus petition on Trussell’s behalf at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida directed to Attorney General Pam Bondi, Siegmeister, Hankinson and Frank Linton, the FDLE officer who signed an affidavit alleging the ten felonies against Trussell.
For those interested in attending Thursday’s arraignment hearing, the address of the courthouse is:
214 Northeast- Highway 351
Cross City, Florida 32628