Legally blind man, attorney plan to sue Columbia County Sheriff’s Office after ‘wrongful arrest’

A legally blind man in Lake City plans to sue the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, after what many are calling a “wrongful arrest.”

Body camera video has been circulating online of the Monday, Oct. 31, arrest of James Hodges, 61.

A deputy mistook his cane for a gun, while Hodges was walking home from canceled jury duty.

On Thursday, Hodges’ attorney John Phillips said they will also separately be asking the Department of Justice and Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

Phillips said Hodges was unlawfully harassed, detained, searched, and arrested by Officer Jayme Gohde and Sergeant Randall Harrison of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

“Police protect us, and we depend on the police to do the hero’s job,” Phillips said. “When they’re poorly trained when they abuse their power. It is the biggest breach of trust that our society has.”

On the day Hodges was arrested, Gohde believed Hodges was carrying “what appeared to be a silver (chrome) pistol with a white grip in his back right pocket,” according to the arrest report. The item was later identified to be a folded-up walking stick.

“I made up my mind to properly, legally and as maturely as possible given the circumstances, to fight back,” Hodges said.

Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter announced Tuesday that two deputies have been disciplined after an administrative investigation into a recent arrest of a legally blind man.

Hunter said Deputy Jayme Gohde will be suspended without pay for two days and he also said Sgt. Randy Harrison will be demoted, suspended without pay for seven days and he “will not be eligible for any favorable action for two years.”

Both deputies will be required to undergo remedial training pertaining to civil rights, Hunter said.

Hodges believes he will get the justice he deserves.

“I’m feeling blessed,” Hodges said. “Enough people care.”

According to Phillips, a notice of intent to sue is being filed and Hodges is requesting a federal investigation of the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office.

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