Judge orders mental-health evaluation for man who posted Homestead video
Written by ELGIN JONES
HOMESTEAD – A judge has ordered mental-health counseling and a mental-health evaluation for the man who posted a controversial YouTube video suggesting the murder or suicide of Homestead City Councilwoman Judy Waldman.
The July 29 restraining order by Miami-Dade County Court Judge Flora E. Seff also prohibits Patrick Pascuzzo of Homestead from posting any more videos of Waldman, and from contacting Waldman or coming within 100 feet of any vehicle in which she may be traveling. Pascuzzo must also not come within 500 feet of Waldman or her residence, the order states.
Additionally, Pascuzzo is prohibited from attending Homestead City Council meetings that Waldman attends, according to the order, which also states that he must relinquish any concealed weapons permits he may possess, and must surrender any firearms and ammunition to Homestead police.
A restraining order is a court-imposed sanction designed to keep an abuser – or potential abuser – away from the victim of abuse. In this case, violation of Seff’s order would constitute a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
“Protected free speech has taken a hit,’’ Pascuzzo said in an email to the South Florida Times. “However, I was able to file on record that Councilwoman Waldman sent an e-mail to friends and another elected official requesting that they blog anonymously and write letters for her.’’
The judge expressed a different viewpoint in her ruling, which expires Jan. 7, 2010.
“After hearing the testimony of each party present and of any witnesses, or upon consent of Respondent, the Court finds, based on the specific facts of this case, that Petitioner [Waldman] is a victim of repeat violence,” Seff’s eight-page injunction states. “Respondent may not email Petitioner [Waldman], blog about Petitioner or post any videos about Petitioner during this injunction. May not attend any [city] council meetings that Petitioner is present at.’’
Waldman expressed satisfaction with the ruling.
“I’m so pleased. I am just so pleased the judge took the time to watch the video and she saw the injustice of the situation,” said Waldman, who was represented by Dade County Legal Aid Society attorney Sylvia Perez, at the July 29 court hearing.
Pascuzzo posted the video on YouTube May 5, using the screen name “AtashyDL.’’ It was listed in the satire category.
With the music of boy-band ‘N Sync’s 2000 hit song, “Bye Bye Bye” playing in the background, the video begins with the words, “Farewell, So Long, Sayonara, Adios and Good Riddance To the suicide blonde” flashing across the screen.
Then, a photo of a blonde-haired woman holding a revolver to her head appears.
Next, there is a succession of photos of Waldman, who is also blonde, at various official city functions.
Some of the photos show Waldman with other elected officials and people from the local community at different events, including some that took place inside city hall.
The video winds down with a scene of cars screeching their tires on a street, followed by a chalk drawing like the one police use to outline a dead body in the roadway.
In a July 3 email to the South Florida Times about why he posted the video, Pascuzzo wrote, “I was stunned to learn a sitting Councilwoman would hurt her city’s businesses by having the Confederate Flag issue and Parade used as leverage against those businesses. She owes the City of Homestead, the Chamber of Commerce and all residents an apology for her actions that fly in the face of her 2002 telling absence of a vote and her presence at social functions where the Confederate Flag was prominently displayed and the functions labeled as Rebel Reunion Miccosukee and Rebel Reunion Keys Gate.”
The Confederate flag controversy in Homestead dates back to the 2008 Veterans Day Parade in the city. The parade was organized by the Military Affairs Committee of the Greater Homestead/Florida City Chamber of Commerce.
Opponents of the Confederate flag say it is a reminder of the violence and oppression of slavery. Supporters insist it is a symbol of their southern heritage and pride.
Waldman has publicly spoken out against the Confederate flag’s display at last year’s parade.
She originally filed papers in Miami-Dade County court on Monday, July 6 to have a temporary restraining order imposed against Pascuzzo, a 53-year-old city resident who has admitted that he produced the video and posted it on YouTube. A Homestead police detective served the order on Pascuzzo at his home later that day.
The temporary restraining order was effective at least until the judge’s hearing. The judgment extends the order until Jan. 7. At that time, Waldman may seek to have the order extended further.
Pascuzzo has said the video was political satire, but Waldman said she asked the court for the restraining order because she sees the video as a death threat.
Waldman said she and her family will consult with their attorney about any future steps they may take.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet as to what I’m going to do from here. I just don’t think it’s right for people to do hurtful, harmful things and walk away with no consequences,” Waldman said.
“In court, he [Pascuzzo] sent mixed messages. He commended me for my charitable work, but made it clear he didn’t like me. I don’t see anything changing with him, but it’s hard for me to tell you at this time if I will have the order extended,” she said.