Legally Blind Man Arrested Walking Home From Jury Duty
(FL) – On October 31, 61-year old James Hodges reported for jury duty. When it was cancelled, he headed home. Deputy Jayme Gohde saw Hodges’ collapsible cane in his back pocket and thought it was a gun. She pulled over and stopped Hodges asking, “What’s this in your back pocket?” Hodges tells her it’s a navigational aid and then asks if she’s a tyrant. Her response is, “Yeah, I am, actually.”
Deputy Gohde then goes on to prove her point and starts demanding that Hodges identify himself. When he tells her he doesn’t have to, she threatens to put him in handcuffs. She tells him she is investigating whether he has a firearm. He asks if she has ensured if it is one. Deputy Gohde accuses him of turning so she can’t see it and says, “You don’t have to be a dick to me.” Hodges then pulls it out of his pocket and shows it to her, turning it so she can see both sides.
At this point, Deputy Gohde no longer has a valid reason to demand he give his information. It doesn’t stop her. She continues to insist and Hodges asks for her supervisor.
Sergeant Adds to the Ignorance
Sergeant Randy Harrison asks Hodges why the deputy stopped him. James Hodges replies, “For a walking stick.” Hodges then shows the sergeant the collapsible cane. Hodges logically and clear cites the law and their lack of grounds to ask for his identification. This seems to upset the sergeant and he resorts to demanding the information. They take Hodges’ into custody. Hodges clearly states that they do not have his permission to search him. The officers do it anyway. When Hodges makes it clear he has no intention of letting it drop, Sgt. Harrison says to arrest him, in what is clearly an act of retaliation.
James Hodges was arrested for resisting arrest and obstruction.
State Attorney Refuses to Prosecute
“After having examined all known evidence it is the determination of the undersigned that said cause does not warrant criminal prosecution against the above named defendant. Therefore, the State Attorney declines to file an information in said cause and said cause hereby stands dismissed.”
This is not surprising. The state attorney was probably shaking his head in disgust as he viewed the video. He knows they didn’t have the right to demand identification once she knew it was a cane. To add to that, Deputy Gohde wrote in her police report that Hodges “would not provide a clear view of the object.” This is an obvious lie. The video clearly shows he did show it to her and to the sergeant.
Press Release by Sheriff Mark Hunter
Sheriff Mark Hunter of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office put out a press release on the arrest.
We are aware of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office body camera video involving the arrest of Mr. James Hodges on October 31, 2022. Sheriff Hunter is troubled by what he has seen in the video and the matter is being addressed. An administrative investigation was initiated on November 3, 2022 when the incident was brought to our attention. If policy violations are sustained at the conclusion of that investigation, appropriate action will be taken. While we understand the frustration and concern associated with this event, please know we are working to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.
Sheriff’s Office Investigating
I can’t help but have a lack of confidence in the sheriff’s administrative investigation. They know what they have.
Deputy Jayme Godhe doesn’t know the law. She proudly claimed to be a tyrant. Suring the arrest she resorted to profanity stating, “You don’t have to be a dick to me.” At no point, throughout the whole clip, does Hodges use profanity. It’s Deputy Godhe who is escalating the situation. Then she patronizes Hodges by saying, “Was that that hard?” She’s violating his civil rights and then acts like he’s the one in the wrong.
NewsUS, Godhe states she is currently being sued in another case for a “wrongful stop.” According to the article, there are claims of “unreasonable and excessive force,” and threatening lethal force leaving him with a “debilitating leg injury.”
Sergeant Randy Harrison is at a level that makes him a supervisor, yet he too, doesn’t know the law. Sergeant Harrison supported Godhe’s demands for identification. Towards the end of the video, when it appears that Godhe is going to release Hodges, it’s the sergeant who says to arrest him. The sergeant was infuriated because Hodges asked for their names and badge numbers. His decision to arrest Hodges for resisting arrest is clearly retaliatory.
The arrest video appears to show a man desperate to be viewed as Rambo. He’s got so much bulky gear on that it’s probably more of a hinderance than a help. Harrison used his law enforcement status as permission to punish Hodges because he was annoyed with him.
According to NewUS, Randy Harrison was investigated in 2010 after he forgot his K-9 in his patrol vehicle and the dog died from the heat. His punishment? “Deputy Harrison now has to live with his actions….” In other words, he faced no consequences.
The sheriff’s office is investigating Sgt. Randy Harrison and Deputy Jayme Godhe for policy violations. They violated Mr. Hodges’ civil rights. Godhe falsified the police report. They engaged in retaliation against him for exercising his first amendment rights. Mr. Hodges is now looking for a lawyer to file a lawsuit and he should. The city is going to have to pay out because the officers were provably in the wrong.
James Hodges spent 26-hours in jail. I know police like to act like this is nothing, but it’s major. Locking someone up, taking away their freedom, should never be viewed casually. Using your authority outside of its intended use, such as to retaliate, should be a criminal offense. But odds are high these two officers will only get a slap on the wrist. When are we going to get serious about wrongful arrests?