Florida Judge Says Defendant Must “Qualify” to Represent Himself

AND BILL OF PARTICULARS CAN BE PROVIDED ONLY TO AN ATTORNEY

by Sharon Rondeau

(Nov. 17, 2014) — On October 30, Dixie County, FL defendant Terry George Trussell was arraigned following a three-week incarceration which began on October 9.

On October 9, Judge James C. Hankinson of Florida’s Second Judicial Circuit convened the hearing five minutes before it was scheduled to begin.  After asking three times if Trussell were present, Hankinson issued a capias for Trussell’s arrest for “failure to appear,” and bailiffs handcuffed him and led him to jail, where he remained for three weeks.

Trussell told The Post & Email that he had been making his way forward in response to the judge’s question, “Is Terry George Trussell here?”  After Hankinson issued the order for the bailiffs to arrest him, Trussell can be heard saying loudly, “I object, Your Honor; I am here.”  Corroborating his report is blogger and radio show host Jason W. Hoyt, who was in the courtroom for the proceeding.

Hoyt said that Hankinson is operating in a “closed society.”

Trussell was originally arrested on September 2 on ten felony counts and jailed overnight until making bail.  In April, he had been empaneled into the Dixie County grand jury and volunteered to be its foreman.  Having observed misconduct on the part of the state’s attorney, Jeffrey Siegmeister, Trussell had attempted to report it to two judges to obtain guidance regarding how to proceed.  Instead, one of the jurists, Judge Greg Parker, admonished Trussell for not seeking his help when he was allegedly in the Dixie County courthouse on the day Trussell witnessed Siegmeister interview each grand juror before it convened to deliberate over evidence submitted by a resident of the county, then insert himself into the proceedings along with three staff members in violation of Florida statute.

Believing that the Dixie County grand jury was had been compromised by Siegmeister’s influence and receiving no assistance from the two judges, Trussell brought the citizen complaint and his own synopsis of Siegmeister’s behavior to a Common Law Grand Jury which assembled inside the courthouse on August 14.  The Common Law Grand Jury examined the evidence and issued two True Bills which Trussell brought to court clerk Dana Johnson.  Trussell then believed that his oath of office had been fulfilled and that the matters would be handed over to the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office.

One of the responsibilities of Florida grand juries is to investigate reports of corruption within public institutions.

A two-page complaint Trussell filed alleging that Parker and Siegmeister had behaved unethically was filed by Johnson in the official Record Book but later removed and replaced with two unrelated pages.  Trussell told The Post & Email that Johnson admitted to having replaced the pages, which could be a felony.

On August 18 and 20, respectively, Trussell was interrogated by members of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) regarding his interaction with the Common Law Grand Jury.  An affidavit of probable cause dated September 2 alleged that Trussell was foreman of both the Dixie County statutory grand jury and the Common Law Grand Jury, but Trussell told The Post & Email that he acted only as a witness to the CLGJ.

While in jail, Trussell went three days without his prescription blood pressure medication.  When medication was finally administered to him, he noticed that it appeared different from that which he was accustomed to taking.  Trussell explained that when medication is given to an inmate, the jailer must watch as it is consumed, after which the jailer ascertains that it has been swallowed and not retained for nefarious purposes.

Several hours after taking the medicine, Trussell fainted, fortunately falling backward instead of forward, where he could have sustained serious injuries.  Trussell told The Post & Email that he was not sure if the medication was someone else’s, a generic which he had not taken before, or the wrong dose.  After passing out, he was hospitalized and a round of tests done which determined found nothing except that he could have been given “the wrong medication.”

On October 30, Hankinson “set aside” the “failure to appear” charge and released Trussell on a $14,000 bond.  Trussell explained to the judge that he is slightly hard of hearing and believed he had been properly present in court on October 9.

When Hankinson had asked the first time if Trussell were present, there was no audible response on the video recording provided to The Post & Email by Trussell.  TT 1. State v. Trussell 10.9.2014  However, Trussell said that he stood up, stated that he was present and began approaching the bench.

After Hankinson asked a second time if Trussell were there, Trussell told The Post & Email that it was he who said, “For the record…” He told us, “That was me trying to get the Court Reporter to put in the Record that I responded. The judge cut me off before I could finish my statement that I was Terry George Trussell, the living man, not the ens eligis (fictitious name) as misspelled in the court documents. I have challenged the court numerous times for their misspellings and undecipherable sentence structure.  In my mind, for me to accept an error without attempting to correct it, makes me party to it.”

Trussell further explained:

I was required to sit in pew seating in the public gallery with people on both sides of me and a pew in front. Each time the judge called my name (which I had trouble hearing because court was convened 5 minutes early and people were still trying to enter the courtroom and find seating) I respond with I am here and began trying to get his attention by standing, raising my hand, and speaking loudly and clearly. I expected him to give me time to get out of the seating area and approach the podium. As I tried to work my way past the others seated on my pew, the judge declared me “Failure to Appear”, ordered my arrest, and the Bailiffs just stood mute as they put me in handcuffs. The whole hearing lasted just over one minute. Check the video time counter.

On Wednesday, The Post & Email submitted a Public Records request for the audio recording of the October 30 hearing.  On Friday, we received a response from Jill Hoblick, Administrative Services Manager at the Third Judicial Circuit in Lake City, FL, which stated that the cost would be $25.00.  We also requested a copy of the Bill of Particulars which has not been provided to Trussell on the grounds that he is not an attorney.  The response to that request was, “The Bill of Particulars has been addressed in separate correspondence which is being sent via US postal mail.”

Trussell obtained the October 30 recording and transcript.  When we asked him if he found any discrepancies in the typed transcript, he said he did not.

TT Transcript 30 1-4

TT Transcript 30 13-15

TT Transcript 30 5-8

TT Transcript 30 9-12

During the hearing on the 30th, Hankinson told Trussell that he would have to “qualify” him to represent himself if he is unable to retain an attorney in his defense.  Trussell told the court that he had believed that an attorney who was provided a retainer was to have appeared on his behalf that day.

Trussell said he has twice requested in writing a Bill of Particulars detailing the charges against him but was told that it can be provided only to an attorney who is a member of the Florida Bar Association.

On October 30, Hankinson’s previous order barring Trussell from entering the Dixie County courthouse for any reason other than to attend a hearing was reaffirmed.  Section 21 of the Florida Constitution states:

SECTION 21. Access to courts.—The courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay.

State’s attorney William Meggs had recommended that Trussell be kept in jail without bond until the trial, which is set for February 9, 2015.

Section 9 of the Florida Constitution reads, “Due process.—No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, or be twice put in jeopardy for the same offense, or be compelled in any criminal matter to be a witness against oneself.”

Section 14 reads, “Pretrial release and detention.—Unless charged with a capital offense or an offense punishable by life imprisonment and the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption is great, every person charged with a crime or violation of municipal or county ordinance shall be entitled to pretrial release on reasonable conditions. If no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to persons, assure the presence of the accused at trial, or assure the integrity of the judicial process, the accused may be detained.”

Section 16 states, in relevant part:

Rights of accused and of victims.—

(a) In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall, upon demand, be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation, and shall be furnished a copy of the charges, and shall have the right to have compulsory process for witnesses, to confront at trial adverse witnesses, to be heard in person, by counsel or both, and to have a speedy and public trial by impartial jury in the county where the crime was committed. If the county is not known, the indictment or information may charge venue in two or more counties conjunctively and proof that the crime was committed in that area shall be sufficient; but before pleading the accused may elect in which of those counties the trial will take place. Venue for prosecution of crimes committed beyond the boundaries of the state shall be fixed by law.

Trussell is currently seeking an attorney but has been told by several that his case is “political.”

Section 24 of the Florida Constitution, “Access to public records and meetings —,” reads:

(a) Every person has the right to inspect or copy any public record made or received in connection with the official business of any public body, officer, or employee of the state, or persons acting on their behalf, except with respect to records exempted pursuant to this section or specifically made confidential by this Constitution. This section specifically includes the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government and each agency or department created thereunder; counties, municipalities, and districts; and each constitutional officer, board, and commission, or entity created pursuant to law or this Constitution.
The state of Florida describes its constitution as “of a permanent and general nature and originates from the people rather than from the Legislature.”

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