Fla. Atheist Drops Lawsuit Against County Sheriff

EllenBeth Wachs, acting president and legal affairs coordinator for Atheists of Florida, recently dropped a federal lawsuit against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd after she said he harassed her by arresting her on multiple occasions because of her atheistic beliefs.

According to a statement released by Wachs, the sheriff committed “religious terrorism” when he arrested her multiple times on “bogus charges.” She had previously investigated the sheriff for his role in giving government-owned prison basketball goals, poles and all, to local churches. After pressuring the sheriff, she claims, he initiated an investigation of his own and arrested her as a means of revenge.

But Judd says nothing could be farther from the truth. First, he says, the cost of donating the basketball equipment to churches was covered by private donors, not taxpayers.

Second, he says he wasn't even aware of the lawsuit against him until he received a notice saying it was being withdrawn. He told The Christian Post on Tuesday that he wasn't surprised, however, that the suit was dropped, and suggested more than once that it was a good way for her organization to create some “free press.”

"The irony of it all is ... we didn't even initiate all that stuff, it was initiated by a totally different agency, the State Attorney's Office,” Judd said.

Assistant State Attorney Brad Copley confirmed Judd's statement. Copley told CP that Wachs was investigated under the suspicion that she had been posing as an attorney. He says the sheriff's office was called in to assist the State Attorney's Office in executing the warrant and the arrest, but, in regards to initiating the investigation, the “sheriff's office didn't have anything to do with it.”

While law enforcement officials searched Wachs' house for evidence, they also found marijuana and drug paraphernalia in a safe. She was also arrested on a separate occasion for simulating a sex act by imitating sex sounds, including moaning, from her window within earshot of her neighbor and his son.

The federal charges against Wachs were dismissed under the condition that she avoids contact with her neighbors and refrains from giving herself the title of “esquire” in correspondence. She also pleaded no contest to possession of drug paraphernalia charges and prosecutors decided to drop charges of marijuana possession.

Last week's statement from Wachs says she dropped the lawsuit against the sheriff because he “appears to have learned his lesson” and isn't retaliating against her anymore, but says she won't hesitate to file suit should he arrest her again.

"My statement has been clear all along,” Judd said. “If she behaves and obeys the law, then she has no problems. If she violates the law we'll certainly investigate her and arrest her. Period."

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