Thursday, May 18, 2006

State House Candidate Arrested

State of Florida House of Representatives candidate Charles Grapski was arrested earlier in the month over allegations made that Grapski digitally-recorded a conversation between himself and Alachua City Manager Clovis Watson Jr. Grapksi, whom was in the city to campaign for his House seat and carry out an inspection of public records (with emphasis on absentee ballots) was arrested and hauled off to jail like a criminal.

The articles covering this story build an interesting case that links Watson to Grapksi's rival candidate in the upcoming election, making the determination to arrest the fmr. University of Florida professor and activist a harsh at best move.

Strategically there is no such thing as bad press, so long as the question of culpability doesn't seriously infringe on a candidate's character or will effect his/her performance in office. Grapski is not being accused of the general, sordid lot of typical crimes associated with politicos. In fact Grapski's interest in studying the Alachua election results goes far and beyond correcting errors for his own political future. By inspecting these results, the greatest outcome would be an invalidation, a new election for the posts awarded to current leaders (should they lose), and a very thorough re-evaluation of the current system with a huge media spotlight constantly making sure officials didn't lose sight of the end-goal. When you look at the embarassment and the shame a city government could face even by the most minimal manipulation of an election in both the public eye and internally, that would certainly at least partially account for what the High Spring's Herald called the "heavy-handed decision to arrest Grapksi."

In just about any other circumstance the front-runner and/or the State Attorney's office could make the case or make strategic implications to discredit a man such as Grapski or dismiss his theories as conspiracy-theory-mumbo-jumbo...and in most cases the general public would take the bait and whether consciously or not, would practically consider the accused to be a strong candidate for a free straight-jacket. In Grapksi's case however, he's been the victim before when Florida Blue Key tried to destroy him, he went to the press, he went to court, and he won not only financially but even more importantly he received a judgment that validated his suspicions and that same judgment gives the man a leg to stand on today, it gives him a degree of accountability that State Attorney's office and his political adversaries have to swallow and deal with. I don't believe there will be efforts at discrediting Charlie Grapksi through the media, if there would have been a chance I'm sure those against him would have already tried, but they haven't.

Then again we touch on an another dynamic that may not be helping things in this case either. Like any country, most of the cutting edge and ground-breaking news occurs where most of the people are congregated, usually in the capitals or big cities. Similiarly at the county level, there seems to be much more emphasis placed on the City of Gainesville than say smaller cities & townships like Alachua, Archer, Micanoby, High Springs, Newberry, Hawthorne, or Waldo. Had this case taken place in Gainesville it would have made statewide, nationwide, and even worldwide press with agencies such as Reuters or AP taking like stories in the past. So, to further prove my point, even with the modest amount of press this case has had and even though the battle will be played out in the rural areas of the county, we still see enough of an effort from the Grapski camp to put a good fight here.

I personally am not privy to the case sensitive information between Mr. Grapski and his legal team or what either party will have to put out for broad discovery (should this matter go to trial), but I can tell you that having a political candidate arrested for political activsm is always very shady. If a candidate is caught driving drunk -- make an ARREST; if a candidate is caught shoplifting -- make an ARREST; if a candidate commits a capital offense -- make an ARREST; in layman's terms I don't believe candidates should receive license to law-break, however, when the nature of their alleged crimes deals with politics or activism I think there are better ways to deal with the problem. Watson could have gone to the State Attorney's office and made a sworn complaint and allowed them to proceed, but he did not, he instead used his own troops to carry out the capture. Watson did not break the law by arresting Charles Grapski but his own bias in the matter may have well prejudiced his reaction. Jails are for criminals, not political activists. Judges don't get involved late-night to save criminals from spending a night in jail.

Did Charles Grapski break the law? That duty falls on the shoulders of the State Attorney and it will be their cross to carry should they choose to follow through and go to trial. Did Watson and his political allies go to far? Not sure about that either, but Grapski will continue to fight for what he believes in and that's a great virtue in a candidate. Whether he wins or loses, Alachua residents can count on the man that today asks for their vote, to be with them win or lose tomorrow.
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