Juror: Evidence showed activist trespassed

Michale Hoffman gets 1 year of probation for trespassing on JAX property

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A man on the jury that convicted a Jacksonville activist of trespassing on airport property -- even though it's public property -- told News4Jax he thought Michale Hoffman was guilty from the start of deliberations.

Hoffman was sentenced Thursday afternoon to one year of probation for trespassing. He must also pay a $500 fine and undergo a mental evaluation.

Hoffman's probation will prevent him from going within a mile of Jacksonville International Airport without permission.

Hoffman and his attorney will appeal the decision.

"The question posed to me yesterday was would I do it again. But what I believe the appropriate question is 'Was it worth it?' To that question, I unequivocally say no," Hoffman said. "However, let me make this clear. I would do it again for one simple reason. Right and just do not change because of the severity of the consequence."

Hoffman went on trial Wednesday, and the jury reached its verdict after being deadlocked at one point.

Anthony Keith Ward Jr, one of the five men on the six-member jury, told News4Jax it was his first time serving on a jury.

"It was kind of crazy in the beginning, (but) as we sat there and listened to all of the evidence, everything, it made sense that he really was trespassing on their property," Ward said.

DOCUMENT: Judgment, sentence against Hoffman

Ward said one juror held out at first, believing the case was a First Amendment issue, but the other five jurors convinced the holdout that the case only had to deal with trespassing.

The assistant state attorney who prosecuted the case said there's some confusion about what really happened. While the area at the airport is public property, there are restrictions.

"There are types of public property that we consider -- or the courts consider -- a nonpublic forum," Elizabeth Hernandez said. "Those are things like military bases, schools and now airports."

Hoffman claimed he was within his First Amendment rights to be on the airport property.

Hoffman and his attorney claimed that he was on his way to the airport administration building to obtain public records when he was stopped by airport police in the grass along Yankee Clipper Drive.

Hoffman said he had parked off airport property and elected to walk based on an incident the previous week. He said that when he was stopped, he had multiple "activist" signs with him.

He recorded the entire incident (see below) where officers told him multiple times that he was trespassing and that he needed to leave.

On Wednesday, Hoffman told jurors that, despite being given the opportunity by officers, he didn't tell them where he was going at the time. He said that it is his policy not to answer questions from law enforcement.

"If they are asking where we are going, I don't see the reason why we wouldn't tell them where we were going," Ward said.

"I think (the juror's) response there sums up the whole point of the division about this whole case," said Ed Birk, a lawyer not connected to the case. "Most people if they were just walking down the street and a police officer says, 'Where are you headed today?' I think most people would comply.

"In an area that is controlled, like the airport or some other government facility, even though it's public property, there is some ability of the government to say, 'What are you doing here?' The question is how much."

Ward said there was a clear statement that even though it was public property, the airport could still control what went on there.

"They have a policy saying you can't protest on their property without signing those forms first," Ward said. "So clearly, if he would've gotten those forms signed first, officers shouldn't have stopped him."

Hoffman said he is angry with the system. He said the jury really had no choice given the information they were given.

"I do not blame this jury for the conviction. This jury did the best job they could," Hoffman said. "I believe the judge and the state attorney maliciously held information with the malicious intent to exercise his disapproval of my actions. This judge did not follow the law and this judge will be held accountable for his actions."

Hoffman is one of the people who prompted an order from a Duval County judge last week that protesters interrupting court business were no longer allowed to demonstrate on courthouse grounds. 

Arrest of Michale Hoffman

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