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by Sharon Rondeau

Are Florida courts “accountable?”

(Nov. 7, 2014) — On October 9, Dixie County, FL citizen Terry Trussell was ordered jailed by Judge James C. Hankinson at an arraignment hearing for “failure to appear” at which Trussell three times identified himself as being present (begins at 5:44).

“I object; I am here,” Trussell is heard saying to the judge when he declared Trussell not present, after which he is handcuffed and led away by bailiffs.

The motto of the Second Judicial District, where Hankinson is normally seated, is “Equal Justice Under Law.”  The Code of Judicial Conduct for judges in the state of Florida states that “Our legal system is based on the principle that an independent, fair and competent judiciary will interpret and apply the laws that govern us. The role of the judiciary is central to American concepts of justice and the rule of law. Intrinsic to all sections of this Code are the precepts that judges, individually and collectively, must respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust and strive to enhance and maintain confidence in our legal system. The judge is an arbiter of facts and law for the resolution of disputes and a highly visible symbol of government under the rule of law.”

On October 30, Trussell was released by Hankinson on a $14,000 bond as a result of a second arraignment hearing.

Trussell turned 71 several days before his release on Thursday of last week.

Last April, Trussell was summoned and empaneled into the Dixie County grand jury and volunteered to be the foreman, having served on two trial juries in that capacity previously.  Judge Cynthia Munkittrick accepted Trussell’s offer and appointed him foreman.  No matters came before the grand jury until July, when a citizen submitted evidence alleging that a crime had been committed in the state’s implementation of the Common Core Educational Standards (CCES), a national mandate considered by some to be an attempt to nationalize education and indoctrinate schoolchildren.

Munkittrick was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to fill a vacancy in March of last year and is a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves.  In late August, she ran for re-election but lost by 16 votes to Jennifer Ellison.

Trussell asked State’s Attorney Jeffrey Siegmeister to provide the names and contact information of the other grand jury members so that he could summon them to examine the evidence.  Siegmeister refused and said he would notify the grand jurors himself, as their contact information could not be divulged even to the foreman.

Trussell asked Siegmeister to include pocket-sized copies of the U.S. Constitution in his mailings, which Siegmeister reportedly promised to do but ultimately did not.

When the grand jury assembled on August 1 in the Dixie County courthouse, to Trussell’s surprise, Siegmeister appeared with a bailiff, court reporter and personal assistant and remained in the room while the grand jury discussed the evidence in contradiction of Florida law, which states that no one other than the grand jurors shall be present while they are deliberating.

Another law states that if the grand jury calls witnesses, the state’s attorney “shall” be present.

Trussell noted that Siegmeister referred to the deliberative body as “my grand jury.”

Shocked that Siegmeister would openly break the law, he composed a seven-page synopsis of the events of August 1 and attempted to present it to Judge Munkittrick.  However, he was told that Munkittrick no longer had jurisdiction over grand jury matters and was directed to Judge Greg Parker, who generally held court an hour away in another county.  Court clerk Dana C. Johnson told Trussell that eventually, Parker would have business in the Dixie County courthouse and to provide the synopsis to him then.

In his documentation, Trussell wrote that Siegmeister had “exceeded his authority by assuming control of jury management through ex parte communications with them before hand [sic]—he called them each to ‘prepare’ them for the session.”  Another transgression Trussell alleged read, “Siegmeister sought to undermine the process of the Grand Jury by inserting himself and his staff into the process contrary to the instructions, the handbook, the statutes, and more importantly to the Common Law, and repugnant to the Constitution.  He forced his court reporter and assistant into the session over the protestations of the Foreman.”

Parker later claimed that he had been present in the courthouse on August 1 and that Trussell made no effort to seek him out to resolve the problem with Siegmeister.  Trussell believes that there were phone calls and has emails in his possession which show contact between Parker and Siegmeister framing him (Trussell) in a poor light.

Trussell said that because of the oath he took as grand jury foreman, he owed it to the people of Dixie County to have the Common Core evidence reviewed by a competent grand jury.  He learned that a Common Law Grand Jury had assembled within the county and on August 14, presented the evidence to that body, which met in a room in the Dixie County courthouse.  On that morning, after Trussell gave a presentation as a witness and submitted his own evidence that Siegmeister had broken the law by remaining in the grand jury room during its deliberations on August 1, the Common Law Grand Jury issued two True Bills:  one asking that state officials involved in the implementation of Common Core, including Gov. Rick Scott, be arrested; and the other charging Siegmeister with “obstruction of justice” and “tampering with the jury.”

After two interviews with agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) on August 18 and 20, respectively, Trussell was arrested on September 2 and charged with ten felonies relating to “simulating a legal process.”  He was jailed overnight and made bond the next day in the amount of $500, which was 10% of the total of $5,000.

Trussell has no previous criminal record and is a Vietnam combat veteran.  On October 10, a group of concerned citizens, some of whom had witnessed Hankinson’s precipitate order to jail Trussell the day before, attended and addressed a meeting of the Dixie County Commissioners.  Prior to the meeting, an eyewitness sent each commissioner an email which reads:

I am a good friend of Terry Trussell. He is now suffering badly as a political prisoner in solitary confinement in the Dixie County jail.

This email serves as your notice of the many felonies being committed by the government officials in Dixie County against my friend Terry Trussell.

In case you haven’t heard yet what happened yesterday in the Dixie County Courthouse, attached below  is a blog post by Jason Hoyt who is a reporter who witnessed first hand the terrible injustice done to Terry Trussell by Judge Hankinson. You can click on the audio and listen to the actual voices in the courtroom and then you can read about the report of what happened.

This incident started when Terry Trussell, acting as the Foreman of the Dixie County Grand Jury reported felonies against the State Attorney Jeffery Siegmeister and as a result has suffered retaliation in the form of a full frontal attack by a corrupt judiciary attempting to engineer a cover up of Siegmeister’s felonies. Additionally, evidence is clear that the official public records in Dixie County have been manipulated and modified as part of this coverup. While Terry was simply doing his duty as Grand Jury Foreman, the judges and prosecutors are intent on turning the act of reporting a crime into a crime. THIS IS PURE EVIL!

Yesterday , with Terry in the courtroom for his arraignment at 10 am, a judge Hankinson from outside Dixie County called Terry’s name three times and Terry answered all three times. The judge then said ” Let the record show that Terry George Trussell did not appear” and then ordered his immediate arrest. We have over 20 sworn notarized affidavits from people who witnessed what happened.

This is an act of Judicial Terrorism and it is directly hurting the People of Dixie County.

In my opinion, this is a very serious issue and it is now time for the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners to stand up, do the right thing, and take responsibility for supporting We the People of Dixie County as we work to clean up some serious corruption in our judicial system. We have stood up our People’s Grand Jury Under Common Law in Dixie County and according to Florida statutes, it is the responsibility of the Board of County Commissioners to provide space and budget for our Grand Jury.

Terry has suffered a cruel breach of his rights to Due Process, among others, as protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Please don’t forget that this could be happening to one of your dear friends or relatives instead of Terry.

Will you please consider holding an EMERGENCY TELEPHONE MEETING today, Oct 10,  to rectify this terrible injustice. All you need to do is a consent vote to support your People’s Grand Jury Under Common Law in Dixie County and we can restore justice to our judicial system.

Now is the time for Dixie Commissioners to stand up and support both the People of Dixie County as well as a very courageous Dixie County Patriot ! Terry and his wife Marie are paying a very heavy price for standing up for truth and justice!

Let’s get this problem solved TODAY so Terry can once again enjoy his liberty! You are on notice of the many felonies being committed against Terry by government officials in Dixie County.

On September 6, blogger and radio show host Jason Hoyt stated that “Reporting a Crime is Now Deemed Criminal Activity” in regard to Trussell’s arrest.

In speaking with Trussell following his release on October 30, the first question The Post & Email asked was about his health, as he had experienced a serious medical incident shortly after his incarceration.  He told us:

I actually feel pretty good.  My energy level is lower than I’d like it to be.  I haven’t been able to exercise or get out and work or do anything during a three-week period, and the food was not what I’m accustomed to, by any stretch.  My wife is an outstanding cook, and she watches my health very carefully in regard to what I eat, and I appreciate that so much.  Being in jail it was nothing but starches and not a good situation for me from that standpoint.  I also had that medical issue that was a bit frightening.

The Post & Email asked Trussell exactly what happened, and he responded:

I was deprived of my blood pressure medication for two or three days.  Then they gave me part of it one day, and the next day, when they gave it to me, I noticed that it was different from what I had normally seen.  When you’re standing there, they give you the pills; they tell you, “Pop ’em in your mouth,” and you have to take them right then.

They’re supposed to be taken with food, and I noticed as I was bringing my hand up to my mouth, one of the pills was a different color than I normally took.  My wife had gone to the drugstore and gotten a prescription just to bring to the jail, and I thought, “Maybe they changed it to a generic or something.”

About three or four hours later, it hit me.  They took me to the hospital and gave me a complete battery of tests.  The only thing they could not rule out was that I had had a bad reaction to receiving the wrong medication.

Trussell lost consciousness and fell.  “Had I fallen forward, I would have fallen down 16 iron steps to the concrete floor below.  Fortunately, when I lost consciousness, I fell backward instead of forward,” he told us.

Trussell had been in his “pod,” which housed approximately 16 men with a capacity for 24, on the “second floor.”  “My left leg is partially paralyzed, so they took the crippled guy – me (laughs) – and put him on the second floor,” Trussell said.  “I was constantly up and down those stairs.  With my leg problem and blood pressure problem, I think it was a disaster just waiting to happen.  Thankfully, it didn’t happen any worse than it did.”

“I’m grateful that I can speak with you today,” The Post & Email said, to which Trussell answered, “Me, too!”

Trussell said “there was no way to tell” if a mistake had been made with the medication or “if somebody messed with it.”

The Post & Email first interviewed eyewitness Col. Harry Riley (Ret.) about Trussell’s October 30 hearing.  In speaking with Trussell about his experience, he expressed deep gratitude for Riley’s attendance at the hearing.

We asked Trussell if Hankinson’s demeanor had changed from the arraignment hearing on October 9 to that of October 30, and he said:

I detected some animosity and a tinge of retribution in his voice and demeanor.  He was probably 180 degrees from where he was when he put me in jail for not appearing in court while I was standing in court.  It was so obvious to me on the 9th of October that his intent was to come in there and make sure that I went to jail.  That was his purpose.  That whole thing lasted, I think, a minute and four seconds.  When I think back on it, that whole situation was manipulated.

For one thing, they started the session five minutes before it was supposed to start; people were still coming in.  The court was called to order by the bailiff, yet the court never came to order.  People were still coming in and trying to find seats.  There was so much noise and commotion that I couldn’t hear what was going on.  He used the excuse that he couldn’t see me.  I’m six-foot-four; I was wearing a white shirt; I was standing up and extended my hand, which goes up to eight feet, which was well over the heads of anyone in front of me — although people were moving around in front of me — and I was speaking loudly.  You can hear it; I have a videotape of the session.  You can hear me speaking over all the other noise.

That whole thing was so hurried in the midst of the pandemonium that I said, “This is where he wants me, and that’s the way it’s done.”

On the 30th, he was a good deal more compliant.  It kind-of puzzled me, because he had been so aggressive on the first appearance when I was arrested initially back on September 2.  He really wouldn’t let me say anything; every time I would try to say something, he would interrupt me.  It was very disconcerting.  This was done over a video call when he was in Tallahassee and I was in jail in Dixie County, so I was looking at a video monitor.

He stuck to the same bond, and this is an interesting aside:  my wife and I own property in Dixie County.  We’re retired, and we have a clean record; I’ve never been arrested in my life, yet they required a bond.  I went back and looked at the law on this, and a bond is required only if you present some kind of flight risk. When I made it clear to him that I had no intent to flee; I’m perfectly willing to stand for these charges; all my assets are here, which are considerably more than the amount of the bond, he just threw that aside.  When he did that, it made it clear to me that the bond was not there as a means to secure my appearance in court; it was there as an economic punishment for me to have to spend money to get out of jail.

On this last Thursday when I was there, I mentioned the fact that I already had a bond of $5,000, and in spite of that, he required the bond to be almost triple.  So I had to pay another $1,400 on top of the $500 that I had paid before, and there was no indication in any way that I was a risk.  It was just another punitive action.

There was a first appearance in jail in front of Judge Cynthia Munkittrick.  Any time you’re put in jail, you’re required to go before a judge within 24 hours.  Judge Munkittrick personally came to the jail; there were three inmates there who stood before her, and she held a bond hearing.  When she took up my bond, she told me that she had no authority to supersede the higher court’s judge’s order that I be there on no bond.  I have found out since then that the whole purpose of having another judge there is to set a bond, and she abdicated her authority, indirectly or intentionally.

This whole thing starts looking more and more like a plan.

The Post & Email responded that a similar situation exists with Tennessee citizen CDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.), who is serving a three-year prison sentence for attempting to inform his county grand jury of criminality among judges, law enforcers, the grand jury foreman, and court clerks who act illegally on the aforesaid individuals’ orders.

Trussell told us that he is currently seeking “competent legal counsel.”  On October 30, he believed that he had counsel, as a retainer had been paid to an attorney who surprisingly did not attend the hearing.  “The challenge is that every law firm that looks as it says, ‘This is strictly political; you can’t win a political case.’  I didn’t know we had political courts; I thought they were criminal or civil courts.  What they’re saying to me is, ‘This has nothing to do with the court system; it has nothing to do with the judiciary or the so-called justice system; this is a political action by political operatives.’  Now that’s frightening.  You can expect that in Soviet Russia or China or North Korea, but not in my America.

Trussell said that during his three weeks in jail, he “began to realize how insidious our so-called criminal justice system is.” He told us:

There was one man in the pod who had kind-of a checkered history with the criminal justice system and had been in and out of jail since he was about 18, and I think he is about 38 now.  He probably had half a dozen different arrests on different things, mostly with drugs.  He showed me a sheet that the court had given him which was a scorecard.

I had never seen anything like it, and I didn’t realize this is the way our judiciary works.  The scorecard listed every single incident that he had had with the court since he was 18 years of age.  Each one of those items, based on the seriousness of the crime, was quantified.  It had a number by it, and that was his “score” for that particular infraction.  And I said, “Wait a minute; I don’t understand the scores going back into your past. Didn’t you do your time?” and he said, “Oh, yeah.”  So I said, “You’re paying your debt to society as required by the court, yet they are assessing against you for that crime again?” and he said, “Oh, yeah, that stays with you for your whole life, and every time you go to jail for something else, that score adds to your sentence.”  And I said, “So what you’re saying is that it’s double jeopardy:  that every time you go to jail, you’re paying for past times you went to jail, also.”

To me, that’s such a foreign concept to think that you could make a mistake when you’re 18 years old, and you will pay for that mistake for the rest of your life.  It would be one thing if we said, “Alright, fine, that’s just punitive,” but it’s economic.  The hidden part is the economic stigma, the finances of our commercial courts and how they’re extracting money.  This is what the taxpayer never sees.  Every time they do that and add to this man’s sentence, those are days in jail.  Every day in jail, the taxpayers in this country are being assessed a penalty to support that man in jail.  If it was just to support his being there, it would be one thing, but there is a huge profit margin in that for the corporate actors who are dealing with our jails.

One of the things people asked when I got out was “How do you feel?”  I felt great; I was thrilled that I was finally out of there.  But the other thing I felt was shame:  that I have been so remiss in my duty – and I consider myself to be a good American – to watch and protect against exactly this kind of thing.

We have allowed criminals, and I’m talking about the real criminals – our public official criminals – to take over our Republic.

At that point, The Post & Email interjected, “But you were in combat in Vietnam.  You have served your country.  Perhaps most people don’t know about the corruption in the courts,” to which he responded:

Well, I can use that excuse.  At the same time, I’ve come to know people over the last 5-6 years who have been in this situation who have understood exactly what was going on, and they’ve been screaming their heads off, trying to get me and everybody else to wake up to this.

I was like everybody else, and this is not an excuse.  I just want other people to realize that I was distracted.  My wife and I were trying to make a living, work for our retirement, raise our daughter, get her educated in college…we did the same thing everybody else out there was doing, and that was where our attention was.  For us to stand here now and scream, “Look at what’s really going on,” I almost feel hypocritical in that I didn’t see it before.  I’m embarrassed to tell other people that I’m just now finding this out.

The Post & Email’s post-release interview with Terry Trussell will continue in a subsequent article.

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  1. Been through this exact system starting in 2003. A family member who did no crime. They extracted 750,000 dollars from me over 10 years.. it is a business cash generating system, NOT A JUSTICE SYSTEM. Brand new Palace of a court house in Leon County ( Hankinsons home fiefdom) is fit for Kings and Queens. If you knew what I know, you would get some of my brutally honest commentary.
    Nothing will happen to the Judge. He could do the exact same thing twice a month with no consequences. File a complaint?. Go right ahead— his peers and pals will be the reviewers.