Three members of the American Outlaws Association in Florida are suing current and former Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies for using their driver’s license photos to scare state legislators into rejecting a law four years ago that would have allowed residents to openly carry firearms.
The plaintiffs in the suit are Tracy Gil Osteen, Leslie Baas and Doyle Napier. They are represented by a Tarpon Springs attorney named Jerry Theophilopoulos and they are suing Captain Mike Fewless who worked as a lobbyist for the Sheriff’s Office and Deputy John McMahon who was a gang investigator in the Intelligence Unit.
The proposed 2011 law, Senate Bill 234, would have allowed anyone in Florida with a concealed weapons permit to carry their guns openly. About 800,000 Florida residents hold the permits. In Florida, citizens can only openly display firearms when they are hunting or on their way to a shooting range.
The Orange County Sheriff opposed the bill because the Office thought that openly carried guns would be bad for tourism. According to the lawsuit, Fewless decided one way to defeat SB 234 would be to show politicians scary driver’s license photos of motorcycle club members who held concealed carry permits. According to the suit he asked McMahon “if he was aware of any motorcycle club members that had concealed weapons permits and defendant McMahon stated that he did possess information like that.”
Fewless then asked, “Are there any photographs that you can share with me so I can paint a different picture of the faces, you know, that are being portrayed up here in Tallahassee?”
McMahon replied, “While I am a complete supporter of gun rights for competent and law abiding citizens, I would be aghast at the thought of people like these, even though they are not (all) convicted felons, openly carrying a handgun on their belts… Good luck and keep up the good fight.”
Then the deputy sent Fewless driver’s license photos and additional information for 17 motorcycle club members who held concealed carry permits. The men were members of the Mongols, Outcasts, Outlaws, Pagans and Warlocks Motorcycle Clubs. None of them were convicted felons or were legally disqualified from carrying concealed firearms. Fewless distributed photographs of seven of the men to the politicians.
“I actually stopped by everyone of you guy’s office this morning and dropped off…photographs of some biker outlaw gang guys that have concealed firearm permits. Those are the ones we’re worried about carrying,” Fewless wrote on April 12. “Please defeat this terrible bill.”
All of it was illegal. It was a violation of federal law to distribute the driver’s license photos. It was a violation of state law to make public the names of concealed weapons holders.
McMahon was reprimanded and retired. A state investigation cleared Fewless of any wrong doing after he blamed McMahon for not telling him it was illegal to use driver’s license photos for lobbying. For the last four years Theophilopoulos has been trying to find additional plaintiffs to the lawsuit. In the end, only the three Outlaws decided to sue the police.
The plaintiffs are seeking “at least $2,500” in damages plus attorney’s fees. The case may take another 18 months to settle.