Controversial Pastor Terry Jones was released from jail Thursday and called the charges against him "bogus" after Polk County deputies arrested him en route to a rally where Jones planned to burn 2,998 copies of the Koran.
Following his release, Jones said the sheriff's office targeted him and never planned on letting him hold his event.
"I think we were definitely, we were definitely targeted," the Gainesville-based preacher said. "I think there's no doubt about that because they were looking for something and I think what's really serious is the stopping of your First Amendment rights."
Jones was in a truck driven by Marvin Wayne Sapp, his assistant, and they were towing a grill filled with kerosene-soaked copies of the Koran. Deputies charged them with transporting hazardous material. They're both also accused of having their guns out in public.
Deputies arrested them about a mile from Loyce Harpe Park in Mulberry, where they planned to hold their rally.
"I think the things that we did that broke the law, I think the punishment was way too severe," Jones said.
But Sheriff Grady Judd said Jones went to jail because he broke the law: he was driving around with flammable materials that the sheriff compared to a bomb.
In the end, Judd believes Jones might have actually gotten exactly what he wanted: a trip to jail. Judd said the pastor was "so obvious and overt" in his crimes that it appeared he planned to spend the night in jail all along.
"I mean first off, you don't have a tag on your trailer, which is a second degree misdemeanor; I mean, c'mon man," Judd said, adding deputies initially stopped the truck because the trailer it was towing didn't have a license plate. "It's kind of like he's pokin' at you. You got to think he's doing that intentionally."
The sheriff went on to say Jones had been warned he couldn't hold his rally or light a fire in the park because he didn't have the proper permits; another reason Judd believes the pastor wanted to get arrested.
Some folks in Mulberry were glad deputies stepped in.
"I don't believe in burning any good book. To me it's garbage," said Tony Fowler.
Jones, however, said one night in jail won't stop him from planning future rallies.
"First Amendment rights are only valid when they allow me or you to say something that people don't like," he said. "We will definitely next year continue on with the burning of 2,998 Korans."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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