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Privateers respond to suit over Santa’s sleigh

The Anna Maria Island Privateers is defending its ownership of Santa’s sleigh against a lawsuit filed in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court.

In the Privateers’ response Aug. 6, the nonprofit’s Sarasota attorney, Amy K. Kenyon, denied the allegations in the lawsuit filed in July by Rick Maddox, which seeks possession of the trailer, valued at $4,500, among other claims.

The Privateers’ response also requested a jury trial and makes counterclaims for attorney’s fees and other relief.

Maddox is a former Privateer, longtime resident of Cortez and former Holmes Beach chief of police.

The Privateers are a nonprofit with a mission to develop, promote and support activities for the community, including an annual scholarship program for local students.

Maddox sued AMIP July 11, alleging theft, trespass and seeking the return a boat trailer he said he modified for use as a float in parades, festivals and other events.

Maddox said he lent the trailer to events, individuals and organizations on a temporary basis, and allowed the Privateers to store the trailer for a short time. He now claims the group failed to return his property.

In its answer to the complaint, AMIP denied Maddox’s allegations and claimed legal ownership of the trailser. They claim it was donated to the crew more than 20 years ago, citing as evidence the sleigh’s registration with the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles.

Also, AMIP contends that Maddox “unreasonably delayed pursuing a right or claim by about 20 years,” and that the theft claim is barred by a five-year statute of limitations. The answer also states there is no criminal intent to support Maddox’s claims.

AMIP filed a counterclaim seeking a jury trial for false statements that damaged the Privateers’ reputation and an injunction to keep Maddox from attending Privateer events.

The counterclaim also contends if the court finds that Maddox is the owner of the sleigh, it should also find the “Privateers have conferred a benefit upon Richard Maddox by storing the sleigh and investing large sums of monies to maintain the sleigh for the various events” and order reimbursement.

Maddox was a member of the Privateers for about six years, and wife Annette Maddox’s current membership is reportedly under suspension.

According to Annette Maddox, she received a suspension letter in April that alleged a conflict of interest with the organization due to threatened litigation by her husband. In an April 19 response to the suspension letter, she disputes the authority of Privateers’ suspension.

AMIP is seeking funds to support its defense, as well as for repairs to the Skullywag, the group’s boat/float, as well as its annual scholarships.

The matter is assigned to County Civil Division Judge Mark Singer.

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