Church and State
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd's mission from God to eliminate obscenity knows no bounds
Published: February 24, 2011
At 18, Judd joined the Polk County Sheriff's Office, and at 19 he aimed to become the youngest deputy in the force. He interviewed with former Sheriff Monroe Brannen, who asked Judd whether he was married and whether there was "any in the bread basket." Brannen then peered around the desk to see if Judd's shoes were polished. They were. He was hired.
By then, the blueprint for Judd's life was pretty well laid out: He was married at 18, and like his father, insisted that his wife stay home to raise their two kids, so they were raised "the right way." While working full-time he earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Rollins College in 1978; his master's followed in 1981.
Judd worked in every department of the sheriff's office, moving quickly up the ranks due to his work ethic and ambition. He was called by a supervisor "second to no one in loyalty and trust," and his personnel file indicates that he received mostly glowing reviews from his superiors. "Colonel Judd is a tireless worker who continually challenges himself, as well as the people around him," a 2002 evaluation stated. It should be noted that 19 years of performance evaluations are missing from his record, though, including five years from the '70s, eight years from the '80s and six years in the '90s. Lori Van Ness, human resources director for the Polk County Sheriff's Office, cited several reasons for the incomplete file: There was a period in which formal evaluations of those ranked captain and above were not conducted, she says, and also points out the sins of former Sheriff Dan Daniels, who, in his short reign between 1985 and 1987, destroyed public records and forbade his staff from talking to reporters (whom he regarded as "slugs" and "cockroaches").
Judd says he doesn't remember being disciplined at all in his 38-year career with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, although Judd's personnel file indicates that two letters of reprimand were issued to him in 1979 - letters that the sheriff's office could not produce. But Judd says he's not the kind of guy to get into trouble: "I'm anal about everything in life," he says. "I've always tried to just behave."
Judd says he respects his "honest critics," but when asked to name a specific individual, he draws a blank. He also says he's willing to admit his mistakes, but when pressed he can't name one of those, either.
Attorney Lawrence Walters, on the other hand, can tick off plenty of things he thinks Judd's done that should be considered misdeeds - and all of them fall squarely under one umbrella.
"There is a concerted effort to squelch First Amendment-protected speech in Polk County," he says. "It all emanates from Judd."
Walters, who operates Walters Law Group, a law firm in Altamonte Springs specializing in First Amendment cases, says there hasn't been a month in the past 15 years that he hasn't had a case pending with the Polk County Sheriff's Office, almost all of which have involved people accused of distributing "obscene materials."
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