A Villager has won an acquittal in a controversial political stalking case.
An attorney for 73-year-old Ed McGinty of the Village of Hadley asked Judge Mark Yerman for a directed acquittal during a trial Thursday in Sumter County Court. Attorney Melanie Slaughter requested the directed acquittal after concluding that the state had failed to prove the case against her client.
McGinty, a vehement anti-Trumper, is well known in The Villages for large signs posted around his golf cart in high-visibility areas in The Villages.
McGinty was arrested Sept. 24 after reportedly showing up at the home of a woman he had been accused of stalking. He had been banned from the Hadley pool the previous day after arguing with the woman, who had been wearing a “Joe Biden Sucks” T-shirt. He reportedly called her a “fat slob.”
During the one-day trial, the prosecution called seven Sumter County sheriff’s deputies to the stand as well as the alleged victim and her husband.
The 16-year resident of The Villages claimed she was “afraid” when McGinty made comments about the political T-shirt she had been wearing at the pool. A man at the pool called 911, and the woman wearing the political T-shirt stayed in the water until deputies arrived. One of the deputies contacted Community Watch, resulting in McGinty being banned from the pool.
The next day, McGinty arrived in front of the woman’s house, according to deputies. He was driving a golf cart covered with political signs. The woman’s husband called 911 and complained that McGinty was in front of their house. It came out in court that the woman was not home when her husband placed the call to law enforcement.
When deputies arrived, they spoke with McGinty, who told them he was parked there reading a book. He asked the deputies if they had ever seen him parked along the streets of The Villages in his golf cart adorned with political signs. Both deputies indicated they were familiar with his golf cart. In a video captured on the deputies’ body cameras and shown in court, McGinty explained that he had the right to park his golf cart with political signs as long as it did not violate traffic laws. He went on to say that many times deputies had been called out with regard to complaints about the presence of his golf cart with political signs, but each and every time, the deputies told him he was doing nothing illegal.
At about 11 a.m. on the day of McGinty’s arrest, the deputies asked McGinty to move his golf cart down the street from the woman’s home and he complied with their request. He continued reading his book.
At about 2 p.m., two new deputies were called out to the residence because the woman called 911 and once again complained that McGinty was across the street from her home, where the garage has been decorated as a shrine to former President Trump. When the deputies arrived, McGinty said he was reading a book. The body cameras showed McGinty was respectful while maintaining that he had the Constitutional right to display his signs on his golf cart. He pointed to the Trump decorations on full display in the woman’s garage. Deputies warned McGinty he might be in jeopardy of being arrested on a stalking charge and persuaded him to move his cart again.
Later that night, two deputies arrived at McGinty’s house and asked him to step out into the driveway. Their body cameras recorded them telling McGinty he had the right to remain silent and the rest of the Miranda warning. McGinty denied he was stalking the woman but admitted they had political differences. The deputies arrested McGinty, refused to let him use the restroom and transported him to the Sumter County Detention Center, where he was booked on a charge of stalking.
When the state rested its case, McGinty’s attorney made the motion for acquittal. She argued the stalking statute has a specific exemption for political speech.
The judge found that the elements of stalking had not been proven by the state. He noted that, “People in The Villages are often disrespectful to each other.” The judge determined that McGinty’s actions were political speech, granting the motion for acquittal.
After the trial ended, McGinty expressed relief that the long saga has ended.
“No protests anymore,” McGinty promised.
McGinty’s attorney expressed optimism that the remaining charge will be dismissed.