PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — A man who was arrested after filming on the sidewalk near a business and a school has filed a notice that he intends to sue.
Jason Gutterman was arrested on November 9, 2021, while filming outside a business on Minnesota Avenue and near two schools, Mosley High School and New Horizons Learning Center.
In his April 15 letter to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Lynn Haven, and the Florida Department of Financial Services, Gutterman’s attorney, Kevin Alvarez, said he was unlawfully arrested.
“While filming, deputies with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office and officers with the Lynn Haven Police Department battered Mr. Gutterman and his son, continued to falsely imprison Mr. Gutterman, and falsely arrested him,” Alvarez wrote. “Mr. Gutterman was booked in the Bay County Jail, suffering the indignities of such detention for hours until he was released.”
Gutterman’s attorney said he was arrested based on an unconstitutional statute. However, in a news release, after Gutterman was arrested, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford defended his deputies and said they arrested Gutterman under a law that was still valid and was designed to protect schoolchildren.
“BCSO deputies provided ample opportunity for the men to ease the concerns deputies had about why they were in the School Safety Zone,” Sheriff Ford wrote. “They believed it was more important to protect the students from potential harm than it was to protect their reputations from any potential damage they would face on social media. Florida State Statute 810.0975 is a chargeable criminal offense. As such, the Bay County Sheriff’s Office could choose to pursue this charge against Gutterman, but has decided not to do so.”
However, this news release was defamatory, Alvarez wrote.
Sheriff Ford “falsely published in the public domain that Mr. Gutterman was a criminal and maliciously insinuated that Mr. Gutterman’s expression of free speech had nefarious intent towards the school,” Alvarez wrote. “The Sheriff must have known that his agents at the scene knew Mr. Gutterman did not have an interaction with the school nor had he filmed the school.”
Alvarez added that the lawsuit is for battery, false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution, First Amendment retaliation, defamation, and deliberation indifference.
Gutterman’s videos are on at least two YouTube channels with more than 100,000 followers. On those channels, he posts videos of his interactions with law enforcement officers, federal employees, and others. The videos include titles like, “3 cops owned and dismissed,” “Tyrant exposed” and “Karen loses her mind.”
Or as Alvarez describes it, a “popular Youtube page” where Gutterman “highlights and educates the public about rights that we all enjoy under the First Amendment.”
The Bay County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the pending litigation.