Monday, October 08, 2012

Tampa Pastor Sues Sheriff for Adverse Possession Arrest

Sheriff Arrests Tampa Pastor for Burglary after Pastor Sues Sheriff for Adverse Possession Harassment

7 October 2012 by Bob Hurt

Tampa Florida, 7 October 2012 – Hillsborough County Florida Deputies Van Pelt, Vasquez, and Lott arrested Tampa Pastor Tami Robinson and parishioner Samantha Gavin, both African Americans, at Gavin's Tampa home at 8:45 P.M. Sunday night for Adverse Possession of a home abandoned in foreclosure. Robinson had filed a notice of adverse possession several weeks earlier. Gavin resided in the home. And, Robinson had just hand-served Deputies a Declaratory Judgment lawsuit for earlier related harassment at a different adverse possession home. Deputies charged the women with invasion by false personation, organized fraud, burglary of unoccupied dwelling, and grand theft, setting bonds at $69,500.  Conviction on all counts could result in enormous fines and lengthy prison terms even though no equitable owner accused the women of trespass.

How Sheriffs Harass Adverse Possessors

The arrests constitute another chapter in the saga of official harassment and suppression of squatters by Statewide Prosecutor, State Attorney, Sheriff, and Police. The harassment has risen to the level of a pogrom against squatters in foreclosure-abandoned homes. The pogrom operates as follows:
  1. The squatters file a Notice and Affidavit of Adverse Possession of abandoned, deteriorating homes in accordance with Florida Statute 95.18 and 600 years of Florida and English common law.
  2. The County Property Appraiser notifies both the equitable owner (mortgagor) and the Sheriff or Police Chief of the adverse possession.\
  3. Law enforcers visit the property and interview the squatter who usually admits information the law enforcers consider violations of law
  4. Law enforcers contact the equitable owner and stir up the owner's anxiety against the squatter by implying that the owner will bear responsibility for the damage the squatter does to the property. Often they cannot make such contact. If they do, they suggest the owner should write and sign a trespass warning.
  5. Law enforcers visit the property and harass the squatters, ordering them to move or face arrest, often without any complaint or permission to do so from the owner.
  6. Law enforcers arrest the adverse possessor and/or resident under charges of breaking and entering, burglary, criminal mischief, grand theft, scheme to defraud, and so on.
  7. The adverse possessors typically pay the bail of $500 to $6,000 which exposes them to severe financial hardship and makes it impossible to afford an attorney.
  8. The adverse possessors accept a felony conviction through a plea bargain that leaves them wearing an alarm ankle bracelet or doing jail time.
  9. Some adverse possessors lose their household possessions and their jobs through the process, and their family members and friends shun them.

Sheriff Targets African Americans, Even Pastors

Law enforcers seem most vigorously to focus such efforts against African American squatters. In November and December of 2011, Sarasota Sheriffs twice arrested African American entrepreneur Joel McNair, cousin of NASA astronaut and scientist Ron McNair, for adversely possessing upwards of 60 homes and renting them at low prices to disadvantaged families. Deputies charged him with grand theft and scheme to defraud in fraudulently contrived arrest warrants. McNair learned of a new warrant for his arrest in May 2011 in Manatee County. He committed suicide the next day rather than spend his remaining years in prison. He did not have the money for a court battle because deputies told his tenants he had no right to the houses and they did not have an obligation to honor their contracts to pay him. By the time of his death McNair had adversely possessed over 100 homes abandoned in forclosure in Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties. Many believe Sheriffs harassed McNair to death out of economic jealousy. They could not stand seeing an intelligent African American male become a business success by putting low income families in nice homes they never could have afforded otherwise. Beneficiaries of his goodness consider McNair a hero and a martyr.

Sheriffs have arrested numerous African Americans in connection with adverse possession over the past two years, including Chris McDonald of Valrico, George Williams of Plant City, Demetrius Lewis of Pasco, Shalonda Allen of Pasco, Maurice Jennings of Pasco, Roosevelt Mitchell of Marion, Byron Parris of Miami.

How Everyone Benefits from Adverse Possession

Tami Robinson, historically a mortgage broker, pastors the Well Pavilion Ministry church of 3402 Sanchez Street in Tampa. In an interview last Monday, Pastor Robinson explained her motive for adverse possession. “I want to find some way I can help those members of my congregation who desperately need a place to live, cannot afford typical rents, and feel willing to do routine home cleaning, yard care, and maintenance,” she said . She added, “And I want to help beautify our community by cleaning up the trashy houses that owners have abandoned because of foreclosure. I just want to do my part to help, and to benefit the owners and lenders at the same time.”

Robinson believes everyone benefits from adverse possession by responsible people. The day before her arrest, she explained: “Adverse possessors keep thieves and vandals at bay, make the home look nice again, keep the air conditioner running to prevent mold and mildew contamination, use insecticide and cleanliness to eliminate bugs, rats, and other pests, make the community look inhabited, routinely maintain the home, and perform the normal services of a good neighbor in the neighborhood. With adverse possession, everybody wins and nobody loses.”

Why Sheriffs Falsely Arrest Adverse Possessors:  Jealousy

Why, then, do Sheriffs, police, and prosecutors harass, intimidate, oppress, and arrest adverse possessors? Dr. Charles Lincoln, Harvard PhD in archeology and anthropology, and Chicago University Law School JD, advocates adverse possession generally, and has familiarity with the case of Pastor Robinson. He explains the Government's motive as he sees it.

“I see it as Economic jealousy and overzealous policing, pure and simple,” he said in an interview Sunday evening after the arrest. “Government has started penalizing these two innocent women for following Florida Law, filing notice of adverse possession in accordance with that law, and actually taking possession pursuant to the Constitutions and laws of the US and Florida, and beginning their process of improving the property. Robinson showed to the deputies the DR 452 Notice of Adverse Possession she had filed. The deputies had no legitimate purpose in arresting them merely for acting on their statutory and common law rights. Only the due process of an eviction proceeding can remove a person in peaceful possession of real property. Under Article I sections 1, 9, and 23 of the Florida Constitution, if no owner or owner agent is present to accuse you of trespassing or signs a trespass warning, law enforcers and prosecutors have no business intruding into the adverse possessor's life.”

Pastor Sues Sheriff for Adverse Possession Harassment

Earlier last week, deputies confronted and harassed Pastor Robinson at a different home which she had adversely possessed in September. In response Friday, Robinson filed a Declaratory Judgment lawsuit against the Sheriff and deputy harassers in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa, case number 8:12-CV-2275-T-23MAP.

The lawsuit explains the nature of the harassment as abuse of civil rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, and the legal basis of the adverse possessor's rights. The pleading recognized the egregious nature of such harassment against which most victims have little or no defense, owing to the high cost of legal assistance. It asks the court to declare Robinson's rights with respect to adverse possession, and to enjoin the Sheriff and deputies to leave her alone, barring any court order or trespassing complaint from the actual owner.

Writ of Amparo Sought for Protection

The pleading also asks the court to craft a special “protection” for adverse possessors similar to the Writ of Amparo invented by Mexico jurists in the 19th Century to protect citizens from rampages by public officers under color of law. According to Dr. Lincoln, who advocates adoption of this famous writ, “Virtually all of South America, the Philippine Islands, Japan, Germany, Spain, and other European nations have adopted it to take up where the Writ of Habeas Corpus left off. Habeas only protects people falsely arrested or deprived of rights by construction of law. It does not apply to civil harassment. America desperately needs the Writ of Amparo to protect them. Americans should demand addition of the Writ of Amparo to US and all State constitutions.” See a history or Writ of Amparo or Juicio de Amparo in Wikipedia for more information. Also, refer to the lawsuit, attached hereto.

Public Attention Warranted

The course of Pastor Robinson's lawsuit deserves notice by the Citizens of Florida and other states where law enforcers and government attorneys harass adverse possessors for no apparent good reason in spite of the good adverse possession does to owner and the community. Perhaps other adverse possessors will take heart from the courage of Pastor Robinson, file their own declaratory judgment lawsuits, and use the courts to force sheriffs to respect their rights. Even though Pastor Robinson might lose, she also might win, and that can become a “get-out-of-jail-free card” for adverse possessors around the state, particularly if her parishioners support it all the way to the Supreme Court.

Dr. Charles Lincoln said that he will take calls for the defendants because of his intimate understanding of the circumstances. For more information contact him at 310 978 7638 (phone/text).

# # #

Bob Hurt
P.O. Box 14712
Clearwater, FL 33766-4712
(727) 669-5511
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Patriot Mark said...


This is all very interesting. The unfortunate part of the whole matter is that trying to take property by adverse possession entails the risk that you will be arrested and charged with burglary, trespass, theft, and other criminal charges.

In order to succeed in taking property by adverse possession, the squatter must enter onto and possess the property for 7 YEARS. That possession must be open, notorious, and ADVERSE to the interests of the property owner. The requirement that the squatter file the statutory notice fulfills the common law requirement that the possession be open and notorious.

The risk is that the squatter will be caught squatting on the property. In these situations ("abandoned" foreclosed homes), the person whose name is on the title to the property is the owner of the property. His ownership of the property does not end just because the property is vacant. There is nothing in the law that says that an owner not living or using a property forfeits his ownership interest in the property.

In order to occupy the property, the squatter must necessarily break into the property. The squatter must break into the property without the permission of the title owner. Breaking into property that is not yours, without the permission or consent of the owner of the property, is a crime. That is one of the reasons for the statutory requirement that the squatter file a notice with the county taxing authority. Once notified, the owner has the right to have the squatter removed as a trespasser, burglar, and/or thief (i.e., permanent or temporary deprivation of the use or benefit of the property of another). At that point, the State has the discretion to bring charges, or not.

I understand that some people believe these "abandoned" or vacant properties could be put to better use by allowing those who are less fortunate to take up residence in the properties. However, in this case, the rights of the owner are paramount to the "rights" of the squatter.

Moreover, there are other ways to deal with this "problem" that would not involve engaging in criminal activity. See, for example, the homeless initiative started by Hillsborough County Sheriff's Deputy Steven Donaldsonin the Town N' Country area, which has now been replicated in other areas of Hillsborough County (see,

The bottom line is that squatting in the vacant homes requires the individual engaging in it to commit a criminal offense to accomplish it. So, if one is going to engage in squatting, that person must be aware of the risks of being caught and charged.

Bob Hurt said...

Thanks for your comments Patriot Mark. Florida law also requires demarcation, improvement of the property, payment of taxes, and continuous habitation for 7 years.

We should not forget the long history of adverse possession and the good it does society. One cannot deprive an abandoneer of use of the abandoned property except by destroying it. No adverse possessor expects to change ownership except by prosecuting a quiet title action after expiration of the statute of limitations.

Historically, people have always sought shelter in abandoned houses. The bottom line: Adverse Possession is a civil, not a criminal matter, even if the squatter picks the lock to enter.

Our problem lies in the fact that NO case law on the subject of adverse possession of foreclosure-abandoned properties exists in Florida. The courts have yet to hear a single case that I know of because the broke and dejected defendants accept plea convictions. The solution lies in the Declaratory Judgment lawsuit. See my blog at wordpress to download the complaint.

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