Putting the Prude Back Into Prudente: Florida Man Jailed for Failure to Sod Lawn

In the appropriately named Bayonet Point, Florida, Joseph Prudente, 66, is in jail indefinitely for the failure to sod his grass. The good (and fully lawned) people of the Beacon Woods Civic Association secured the contempt order because Prudente is required to keep his lawn with a full and healthy display of grass. The problem is that Prudente is on a fixed income, recently had his car repossessed, and cannot afford it. The association lawyer, however, says that such jailing is merely the sign of a fair and serious legal system.

Technically, Prudente is being held in contempt presumably for his failure to respond to the legal complaint, but the question is why such a matter became a legal dispute in the first place. Prudente is obviously in distress financially but his neighbors seemed to care more about good lawn care than being good neighbors.

A retired nurse, Prudente’s adjustable rate mortgage went up an extra $600 a month and Wachovia repossessed his Toyota Scion. His daughter and her two young children, is also broke and recently moved in with him. He ignored the complaint filed by the association against him and the court awarded the association $795 in fees, which included a $645 attorney’s fees and a $150 fee for “an expert witness.” I am not sure of what an expert in a lawn case might be, but they cost $150 if you are looking for one.

Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray gave him 30 days to get his life and lawn in order.

The Board is obviously really torn up about sending a grandfather to jail for a lawn: “It’s a sad situation. But in the end, I have to say he brought it upon himself.” The Assocaition’s lawyer Thomas Gurran says that the association had “just wanted Mr. Prudente to comply with the lawn restriction.” How about this for an idea: buy a box of seed and help the guy out instead of using court and jail time to enforce a minor contractual provision?

Yet, Gurran insists that “Many orders and judgments … would be absolutely meaningless if they could not be enforced by a judge’s contempt power.” True, and he should not have ignored the complaint. However, he could not afford a lawyer and when makes a mockery of our courts is when parties take these type of matters into the legal system when they used to be handled between neighbors.

For the full story, click here.

15 thoughts on “Putting the Prude Back Into Prudente: Florida Man Jailed for Failure to Sod Lawn”

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  3. This is really sad news. What happened to the idea of good people pitching in to help their neighbors out? Is there a way this retired man with little money can sue for being jailed for something so ridiculous? There is something wrong with this.

  4. “As a homeowner and resident of Beacon Woods for the past fifteen years, I believe that my experience and commitment to our community can offer a voice of common sense and reason to the board of directors of the Beacon Woods Civic Association.” So where’s the voice of common sense and reason?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  5. The judge should not only be removed from the bench..he should be clobbered over the head with it, this judge seems to have a distorted sense of justice.. And the state of FLA. like many others needs to take a hard look at these Assn’s & the powers they are allowed to possess, they are wreaking havoc and destroying lives in many cases for small amts. of unpaid fees and ridiculous deed restriction violations … Placing liens , foreclosing on homes, incarceration for these types of issues is just totally nuts! Our Fore Fathers are no doubt rollin’ in their graves. Hopefully with all the Media some Attorney or Agency will intervene on this mans behalf..to have this man in jail over this..is truly disgusting…

  6. Also,

    A legal aid appellate attorney should not only be champing at the bit to challenge the ruling but have the judge removed from the bench as well.

  7. This case needs attorney’s to come to the aid of this man.

    What the people of Bayonet Point, Florida have done, is successfully reinstituted the archaic concept of “Debtors Prison”.

    The “people” of this community have imprisoned an old man because he was poor.

    It is disgusting. They are disgusting. And attorney’s should be flocking to this case to provide this elderly man not only freedom from their debtors prison, but some sort of compensation for this unjust, and vicious attack on him and his family.

    These are hard times and finances are difficult right now for many.

    Throwing these people, down on their luck, into prison, is about as evil of a thing that I can imagine.

  8. I’m sorry, but unless this guy bought the property subject to a C&R (Covenant & Restrictions) running with the land, i.e. mandating that he keep the lawn in the condition demanded by the court, I fail to see how a civic association was able to so much as state a cause of action.

  9. Cruel & Unusual Punishment Stemming from a “Deed Restriction Violation” All the parties involved with pursuit of this assanine result should hang their heads in SHAME. It is just crazy in this day and times of hardship..esp. for a senior citizen, who has already lost his car and is STRUGGLING to KEEP HIS HOME, to find himself thrown into jail..an already overcrowded at that and with out bail to boot! This is just an abuse of power by the “Civic” Assn. How they dare even call themselves a “Civic Assn” is beyond me. There are Exceptions to every rule..in this case the “Civic Assn” could have worked with this homeowner…every homeowner in this community should be concerned about this kind of extreme action taken by this Assn. & it’s Attorney..YOU COULD BE NEXT!!!!

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