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Date of Issue: October 08, 2008

Attorney seeks $200,000 in blown-kiss case

An attorney representing two teenagers arrested at Coquina Beach earlier this year is seeking $200,000 in damages from the city of Bradenton Beach.

Charges against siblings Veronica and Lance Lewis of Tampa were dismissed last month and their attorney, Alex Hajaistron, is now seeking damages and alleging a violation of his clients’ civil rights, according to correspondence he sent to Bradenton Beach City Hall.

Mayor Michael Pierce said last week he had not discussed the attorney’s request with the city attorney.

The case dates back to April 20 at Coquina Beach, a county-operated public beach that is policed by the city, when Lance Lewis blew a kiss toward Officer Timothy Matthews. At the time Matthews was a reserve officer with the Bradenton Beach Police Department but has since moved to another law enforcement job.

A probable cause affidavit filed in the case by BBPD detailed law enforcement’s perspective. Matthews wrote that at about 2:12 p.m. he was driving his patrol car “and observed a white male (Lance Lewis) blow me a kiss. I asked him what his problem was and he said, ‘I don’t have a problem N…’ I asked why he would blow me a kiss and he said, ‘F… you.’”

Matthews reported that when he approached the boy, his “sister Veronica Lewis stepped between us. I told her to move and she pushed me and said, ‘I don’t want my brother arrested.’ I then pushed her out of my way and attempted to grab Lance Lewis and he pushed me away. I grabbed him in a headlock and he kicked me in the left leg.”Hajaistron, throughout the criminal court proceedings, maintained that Matthews overreacted to the incident and harassed the teens.

“Upon observing a ‘kiss being blown at him,’ Officer Matthews exited his patrol unit, asked co-defendant Lance Lewis if he was retarded, verbally berated Lance and his defendant/sister, then started aggressively approaching both defendants.”

The attorney said Veronica Lewis tried to protect her brother.

“Officer Matthews pushed Veronica Lewis out of the way, placed his hands on the body of Lance Lewis, put the minor in a choke hold, flipped the child to the ground, straddled the upper torso of the juvenile, attempted to punch the child in the face where the officer missed and punched the concrete causing injury to his knuckles, then began choking the juvenile.”

Hajaistron alleged that Matthews’ actions were criminal, that he lacked probable cause to “confront the defendants, nor does having a ‘kiss blown’ at Officer Matthews create a reasonable suspicion that the defendant or her brother were involved in criminal activity or that the defendants were armed and/or dangerous.”

On Sept. 16, Circuit Judge Diana Moreland dismissed a felony charge of battery on a law enforcement officer filed against Veronica Lewis finding a lack of probable cause. She did, however, find probable cause for a misdemeanor simple battery case.

Also, on Sept. 18 in juvenile court, Judge Marc Gilner dismissed the case against Lance Lewis, finding that the police officer lacked probable cause to make an arrest.

With the dismissal of charges, Hajaistron last week notified Bradenton Beach that a civil rights suit was being prepared and alleged the city is responsible for claims that his clients suffered grief, embarrassment and financial hardship.