By BRUCE COLLIER
Walton County business owner Mark H. Runge filed a civil lawsuit in First Judicial Circuit Court on April 12 against the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson Jr. (both individually and in his capacity as sheriff). The complaint alleges one count of false arrest and one count of malicious prosecution.
The action arises out events that took place in 2016, concerning Runge’s business, AA Auto Salvage and Recycling, LLC.
According to the allegations made in Runge’s complaint, AA Auto Salvage had properly registered titles for 134 automobiles it had purchased for recycling on the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS), and provided documentation to the WCSO investigator on request. In spite of that, the complaint states, WCSO arrested Runge for failure to report those same vehicles.
According to the complaint, WCSO “conducted a lengthy campaign to require Runge to report to LeadsOnline [“not an accredited software provider in Walton County,” states the complaint] even though WCSO knew Runge complied with the Florida Statutes by providing all required information to NMVTIS and even though WCSO had NMVTIS available to each of its computers, including those on each of its vehicles.” Hence, alleges Count I of the complaint, “the [July 2016] arrest of Runge was an illegal arrest.”
Count II of the complaint, malicious prosecution, is based on the same factual allegations as those on which Count I is based. Count II alleges that there was no probable cause to make the arrest, and that WCSO and Adkinson’s action in pursuing arrest showed “malice and careless disregard for Runge, his family and the reputation of his business.” The compliant reiterates that Runge and his attorney made “numerous efforts” to “convince Adkinson and WCSO that the charges against Runge are factually and legally false….”
Runge also alleges that the publicity surrounding the arrest, which was reported in area newspapers and news outlets, adversely affected his reputation and that of his business. The complaint asks for damages, interest, costs and attorney fees, and demands trial by jury.
WCSO and Sheriff Adkinson were reportedly served April 13. The Herald – Breeze contacted Adkinson for comment, and received the following written statement from him:
“It’s fairly common to have lawsuits filed against the Sheriff’s Office by those unhappy with our services. In this particular case, the probable cause arrest was supported by a Circuit Court Judge and the State Attorney’s Office following review. It is certainly not uncommon for a case to be dismissed once a resolution is reached, which is what occurred in this instance with Mark Runge agreeing to the very conditions we requested all along. The only thing making this case unique is the actions of Mark Runge to advertise this matter to try to help his lawsuit. – Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, Jr.”
By BRUCE COLLIER