The mainstream media has repeatedly promoted the narrative that racist police are targeting and murdering young black men. But when militarized police beat a white man nearly to death over a suspended license, no one seemed to care—even after the sheriff was indicted on perjury charges related to the case and sent to jail.
By John Friend
Roughly one year ago, this newspaper published a report highlighting the plight of Dustin Heathman, an American patriot and supporter of AFP based in Florida, who is currently serving a life sentence stemming from charges relating to a brutal encounter with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office in June 2014.
Heathman had his home in Williston, Fla. surrounded by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, including its SWAT team, in June 2014 to enforce a warrant for his arrest arising from a suspended license.
Heathman’s suspended license charge was eventually dropped but not before a six-hour standoff and shootout took place between himself and law enforcement officers with the Marion Country Sheriff’s Office.
After Heathman was taken into custody, he was brutally beaten by law enforcement officials. Heathman was eventually charged with attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, five counts of aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer, and one count of firing into a vehicle. Following his conviction, Heathman was sentenced to life in prison.
Heathman has maintained his innocence, and believes his side of the story was never properly aired.
Jenny Brown, a close friend and supporter of Heathman, recently spoke with AFP to provide some updates and further clarification on the case.
“Dustin has definitely not been treated fairly,” Ms. Brown explained to this reporter. “The fact that the state had to change the charges against him three times, the last of which was just four days before trial, proves that they never had a case against him to begin with. And they only began doing this once the dishonesty in his case began to come to light. They even removed three of the original so-called ‘victims’ so the defense couldn’t put them on the stand and question them about their dishonesty.”
A number of high ranking officials in the Marion Country Sheriff’s Office have come under intense scrutiny in the wake of Heathman’s conviction. Many have either resigned or have been placed on administrative leave.
In late May, Marion County Sheriff Chris Blair—the highest ranking official in the organization—was indicted and booked into Marion County jail as a direct result of his involvement with Heathman’s case. The disgraced sheriff was indicted on perjury and official misconduct charges stemming from a grand jury investigation into excessive use of force by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department.
Following his arrest, Heathman informed Marion County Sheriff’s investigators he had been assaulted by their law enforcement officials. Heathman’s allegations were never taken seriously or acted upon. Former Sheriff Blair personally witnessed the injuries Heathman suffered at the hands of his deputies and then lied about it in front of the grand jury.
Another high ranking Marion County official who was also involved in Heathman’s case, Maj. Tommy Bibb, also resigned following Blair’s indictment. Heathman was interviewed by Bibb, however, his reports of being assaulted by Marion County Sheriff deputies were never officially reported.
“If the cops can do all that they’ve done—lying under oath, falsifying reports, omitting facts, covering things up, manipulating and withholding evidence favorable to the accused—and get away with it, when it’s known that the entire investigation and prosecution was dishonest and based on a false record of events, then how long before the public no longer trusts the justice system at all?” Ms. Brown asked this reporter. “How long before people lose faith in the police altogether, if they feel that the police and justice system can’t be trusted? It’s not just about Dustin. It’s not just about Marion County. It’s about doing what’s right. Dustin stood up to tyranny and didn’t put a scratch on anyone. He doesn’t deserve a life sentence for doing what our forefathers would have done. In fact, he doesn’t deserve to be in prison at all.”
Ms. Brown concluded: “Ultimately, I hope that all charges against Dustin will be thrown out, as they should have been, and that he will be released. Once again, I have to mention again that the state amended the charges three different times, and, each time, their entire story changed. Meanwhile Dustin has not been caught in a single lie, and his story has never changed. In fact, all the things he’s been saying since the very beginning are being proven to have been true all along. And as more and more dishonesty on the part of law enforcement comes out, the more we see that Dustin has been wrongfully arrested and imprisoned. He’s just an American patriot who stood up for what’s right, and hurt no one at all in doing so. It’s about time they let him go.”
AFP readers are encouraged to send Heathman a letter of support. He can be reached at:
Dustin Heathman #524936
Okaloosa Correctional Institution
3189 Colonel Greg Malloy Road
Crestview, FL 32539
John Friend is a writer and lives in California.