Six members of a Haitian family were arrested at The Mall at Wellington Green on Thursday, December 27th in an incident that began benignly enough over a pair of droopy jeans but ended like a chaotic scene out of the Cops TV show. An estimated 20 deputies, two canine units and a police helicopter swarmed the area surrounding the mall's food court, shutting down roads, all to arrest a 52-year-old man, his 50-year-old wife and four other relatives, ages 16 to 20. Full story published December 30th, 2007 by the Palm Beach Post. Story also picked up December 30th by WorldNetDaily.
What both sides agree upon: Frantz Leger, a 20-year old member of the family who is a sophomore business major at Florida State University, had returned to the mall where he was banned for violating its "Rules of Common Courtesy" on or around August. He was banned for wearing his pants too low, and his return to the mall was a violation of the trespass warning given earlier.
The Leger family's version: They say sheriff's deputies overreacted with not just the force of their numbers but also with sheer force. They claim that their arrests, along with the physical and verbal abuse family members say they endured, were punishment for both questioning the arrest of one of their sons and for leveling racism charges on the deputies.
The police version: The family attempted to stop deputies from arresting a relative, which led to the situation spiraling out of control. According to Sheriff's Capt. Greg Richter, Wellington's senior law enforcement officer: "The family got involved and tried to intervene and tried to resist the officers and that's why they were subsequently arrested. It had nothing to do with the color of their skin. It had to do with their actions."
"The mall doesn't put up with that tomfoolery bullcrap," Sheriff's Lt. Jay Hart said. "His pants were down below his butt. No one goes to the mall and wants to see the crack of someone's butt."
Identities and disposition: In addition to Frantz Leger being charged with trespassing, the other five members of the family were charged as follows:
The father, Joseph F. Leger (pictured above left), was charged with trespassing, resisting an officer with violence, assault with intent to commit a felony and assault on a law enforcement officer. Released on bond.
The mother, Marthe J. Leger, was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, resisting an officer with violence and two counts of battery on an officer. Released on bond.
Their daughter, Samantha, 18, a Florida A&M University student, was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting an officer without violence, trespassing and simple assault on an officer. Released on personal recognizance.
Frantz Leger's cousin, Alain Oidge, 19, was charged with trespassing, resisting and officer without violence and disorderly conduct. Released on personal recognizance.
Another cousin, a 16-year-old juvenile who was not identified faced a battery charge. Released on personal recognizance.
For four of them, it was their first time behind bars in Florida. Marthe Leger was arrested in 1994 on larceny and robbery charges; and Alain Oidge was arrested in October on charges of fraud, driving while his license was suspended and resisting an officer without violence.
The Legers claim their Haitian heritage and treatment at the mall are not coincidental. "We feel like we've been prejudiced," Marthe said. "They treat us like a second-class citizen."
The Legers say they will contact an attorney this week and might seek reprimands against certain deputies.
Commentary: TNB. This family appears to have been in this country long enough to know the rules. They chose to interfere with police officers, they deserve to be arrested and charged. Note how they immediately played the race card - that's how I know they didn't just get off the inner tube. They didn't learn that trick in Haiti - they learned it here.