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Friday, October 26, 2012


How in the world could something so innocent as a tiny little metal clicker have to do with buying a house in Key West? How, indeed!

That's Judge Joseph P. Lewis, Betty the division clerk, Velma the court reporter (stenographer), and me. The photo was taken 40 years ago. I was Judge Lewis' legal staff assistant. I had recently graduated from the University of Denver College of Law when the photo was taken. I had passed the bar and was looking for a job as an attorney. I was 25 at that time. I was 5'8" tall and probably weighed 135 pounds.  Look at the pic. I don't look very intimidating, and I certainly never lived up to the nickname my dad gave to me, Butch. What happened one day at the Jefferson County Hall of Justice in Golden Colorado (that's where Coor's Beer is made) may help you understand the importance of the clicker and how it relates to real estate all over the country some forty years later - at least it does in my mind.

Former Jefferson County Hall of Justice
Walkway from former Hall of Justice to Clerk's Office and County Jail
 Judge Lewis' courtroom was on the forth floor (top floor) of the building pictured above right. The county jail was located about 150 feet away in a separate building.  The county clerk's office was situated between the two. The interior of the Hall of Justice was open from the ground floor to the ceiling of the forth floor with courtrooms or administrative rooms situated on all four sides of the building. Interior walls were blond brick. Noise of any sort sounded throughout the building and even filtered into the courtrooms.

One afternoon I was in the hallway outside our courtroom talking to two Deputy District Attorneys.  A man in his 40's or early 50's exited the clerk's office and began clicking a clicker in rapid succession as he walked the hallway heading toward the elevators.  Back then we did not have police or sheriff's officers in the courtrooms or hallways. Nobody had to pass through a metal detector at the entrance to the courthouse.  We had not yet become a society that was afraid of everything and everyone. So there was nobody to stop this metallic madman from disturbing the solemnity of the courthouse.

I left the Deputy D.A.s and moved quickly to the elevator hall where I grabbed the elevator door and braced my right arm against the door to prevent it from closing. I yelled "Ralph, call the Sheriff!"  Ralph was a older man, probably in his sixties, whose office was located just off the elevator lobby. The metallic man was alarmed that I had stopped his exit and began chopping at my arm with his arm, trying to break my hold. He hit me repeatedly. And it hurt like hell.

Steve Worrell, a fellow classmate from law school, came out of his courtroom into the hall to see what was going on. Steve played football in high school and even though he wasn't much taller than me, he was definitely bigger in size and stature, and surely he wasn't the sort of guy you would want to pick a fight with. I wouldn't call myself a wimp, but I was.

Steve reached past my arm and grabbed metallic man by the shirt and quickly waltzed him straight across the hallway into the marble wall.  I think he was about ready to punch the man, but someone either grabbed the man or Steve to prevent things from getting more difficult.Within a couple of minutes a couple of deputy sheriffs arrived. I told them what had happened. They put the man in handcuffs and took him to the county jail.

Later that afternoon I got a phone call from the Captain in charge at the jail that day. He asked me to come over and sign the complaint under which the man had been arrested. When I got there the captain made me an offer. He said I could go inside the holding cell and hit the guy. He even offered to have some guards hold him for me so that I could beat the hell out of him. I am as serious as I can be. I don't lie, and I don't make stuff like this up. I told him no and that was the end of that.

The next day the man was arraigned in the courtroom of Judge Johnson. The Judge had me sworn in and I related what had happened in the hallway. My recollection is that the man admitted what I said was accurate. He was taken away on a mental health hold for three days. I don't recall anything further ever happening in this regard.  But I will never forget the Captain's offer to let me beat up the guy who had hit me.

Many locals in Key West visit the Monroe County Sheriff's webpage CLICK HERE several times a week where we can see who has been arrested and on what charge.  It's not uncommon to see someone we know get picked up for driving under the influence or some other infraction.  Last week I saw someone whose house I wrote about in my blog earlier that week. Sometimes I see images of people that disturb me. See some examples below.

48 years old, disabled, held on municipal ordinance violation

68 years old, arrested for failure to appear

58 years old, arrested for failure to appear

Barbara is 65 years old and was arrested for a municipal ordinance violation

None of the violations would explain the bruises or lacerations to the citizens pictured above. There is no justification in my mind that could possibly permit someone in authority to hurt these people.  These pictures are just examples of what you can and will see on a regular basis of people who are processed through the Monroe County Jail. I'm not saying the Sheriff's officers did this and I am not saying a city policeman hit these people.  Somebody did it.

If you live in Monroe County Florida you get to vote on November 6th to pick a new Sheriff. The incumbent Sheriff is retiring. A Republican and a Democrat are vying to replace him. You can pick the man that enforces the law where we live. Or wherever you live.

I love living in Key West, Florida. I encourage people to move here and fulfill their dream of living in Paradise. But I must warn them not to get arrested for even the least infraction because nobody is safe, especially the least among us. And if you think I am some bleeding heart liberal I will tell you that I am not. I do, however, believe in justice.


Anonymous said...

Gary I love your blog but I think you're making a mistake with this assumption. Most of these folks are plainly homeless and I would imagine the vast majority, if not all, either hurt themselves while drunk or were hurt in fights with other people before they were arrested. I'm sorry they were hurt but there is no indication any law enforcement officer caused these injuries, which is what you imply. To imply this without any proof is simply wrong and I think you should revise your post. Thanks for your consideration.

Gary Thomas said...

Dear Anonymous, Thank you for reading my blog. I did not state that a sheriff or a policeman hurt these people. I said someone did. I was careful to select only people arrested for slight infractions. I did consider that they could have been hurt by others on the streets because that is most likely where these people live. But I believe they were more likely hurt by a law enforcement officer.

If you visit the Sheriff's website with any regularity like I suggest, you will find too many photos of people just like these whose faces are battered.

It was maybe five years ago that I found a photo of a man who had just been arrested for a minor infraction. His face was beaten to a pulp. He was old and probably homeless. I saved that photo on my old computer. The next day I visited the Sheriff's mugshot page again. The really gruesome photo had been replaced by a new and less damning photo. I sent both photos to a local government leader and asked that he look into it. He was on the Key West police review board at the time. We talked but nothing happened.

Anonymous said...

It would seem to me if the cops were beating people they would take their mugshots first and then beat them. But your story about the photo is not good at all, so I'll take your word for it that not all of these injuries are caused by other homeless people.

At any rate I admire you even addressing this on a page about KW real estate ... most people would just be mindless cheerleaders but you even mention the problems of KW which makes you more credible.

Anonymous said...

Gary: very good piece. I have experienced both sides of this. Sometimes a badge gives a magical feeling to some people, sometimes wrong, sometimes right. I was once stopped for a defective taillight, car approached by two very young cops (so young i thought they were explorer scouts in training) my vehicle was in pretty rough shape but comfortable. Both cops had their hands on their unsnapped holsters and proceeded to yell at me after i asked politely what i was stopped for three times. After this little episode they asked where i was going and where had i come from. I explained i was coming from work, opened up my jacket to reveal my uniform collar brass. They then instantly changed their tone, and treated me as some sort of friend. This little event really scared me, because had i not been a good guy, god knows how far this would have went. Jay


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Key West, Florida, United States
I first read about Key West in a magazine called "After Dark" sometime in the mid 1970's. But it wasn't until March 1984 that I made my first visit to the island that would become my home. I had two weeks for a vacation and reserved a room at Colours Guesthouse (now Marrero's Guest House) for one week. I thought that if I didn't like Key West, I could always go back to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale for the rest of my trip. But after a couple of days in Key West, that was no longer a consideration. But when I wanted to extend my stay for the extra week I found there was no room at the inn. The guesthouse owner did find me a room at LaTeDa, the infamous guesthouse/restaurant. That's a story I'll write another day. But those two weeks in Key West gave me the realization that I had found Paradise. Key West has been my home since 1993 and my only regret is that it took me so long to get here. I am a full time Realtor at Preferred Properties CRI. Let me help you find your new home or business in Paradise. Living in Paradise is not a slogan, it's a way of life.