Safer-at-home violation: State lawmaker to represent Pinellas County Game shop owner arrested in criminal, civil cases

Pinellas County

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (WFLA) –  A bay area game shop owner who was arrested last month for violating emergency orders by keeping his store open has some new, high-profile legal representation.

State Representative Anthony Sabatini (R-Lake County) announced he, along with Gordon G. Oldham of Oldham & Delcamp law firm, will represent Galen Wood, the owner of Kitchen Table Games in Pinellas Park.

Wood was arrested in April for violating the state’s and county’s emergency “safer-at-home” orders. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Wood was warned nearly a half dozen times to shut down his store, but he refused.

Sabatini, who is also an attorney, told 8 On Your Side he believes the state and the county exceeded their legal authority in the orders.

“I think that the breakdown between what they’re declaring an essential and nonessential business is irrational, and lends itself to abuse by the state,” Sabatini said. “You have Walmart and these other businesses – that sell the same goods – open and crowded. Yet the same businesses, but on a much smaller scale, are being told they’re not even allowed to go in the building.”

Wood was charged with two counts of violating emergency orders one for the state, and one for the county.

Sabatini will not just represent Wood on the criminal charges. They also plan to file a civil lawsuit against Pinellas County and the state of Florida.

“These sort of orders, especially ones that have criminal offenses in them, are going to be interpreted with strict scrutiny, which means the law is on our side,” Sabatini said. “If it’s not narrowly tailored – if this law could easily criminalize law-abiding people because it’s inherently irrational – the entire law could be struck down by a judge.”

“It could also be struck down for another legal doctrine called ‘void for vagueness’,” Sabatini said, “which means it sounds good, but actually could be interpreted in such a vague way that it simply cannot stand because it would violate people’s due process rights.”

Sabatini said the arrest of Wood was a particular overreach on the government’s part because Wood claims he was only operating curbside pickups, not the shop itself.

“So not only do I think closing a small business is illegal, I think in this factual instance they went even more renegade and more outside the law,” Sabatini said.

A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri had no comment on Wood’s new representation.

“If a civil case is filed, we will address it at that time,” Sergeant Jessica Mackesy wrote in an email to 8 On Your Side.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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