A homeless man spent the night in a southwest Florida jail after a police officer accused him of stealing by charging his cell phone at a public park.
An arrest report says that a Sarasota police sergeant spotted 28-year-old Darren Kersey charging his phone Sunday evening in a public picnic shelter at Gillespie Park. The sergeant told Kersey that the "theft of city utilities will not be tolerated during this bad economy" and then arrested him on a misdemeanor charge of theft of utilities.
Unable to pay the $500 bond, Kersey spent the night in jail. But the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Kersey was released Monday morning after a judge threw the case out, saying the sergeant lacked the legal justification to make the arrest.
"I was appalled. I lost my job because of it. I'm unemployed now. I was appalled. For charging a cell phone? And they took another gentleman to jail for smoking a cigarette," Kersey said.
The Sarasota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union accuses the city of trampling on the rights of the homeless, arresting them because they can. A Sarasota police captain told us they're reviewing the arrest.
A city crew showed up late Tuesday afternoon and cut off power to the pavilion, then turned it on again less than an hour later.
We checked again just before 5 p.m. and several people were there charging their cell phones again.
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