TAMPA — Florida's stand your ground law has famously come up amid the most perplexing of circumstances.
There was the retired Tampa cop accused of shooting a moviegoer over cell phone use in a Pasco County theater. There was the Valrico man who killed a neighbor in a dispute over skateboarding. More recently, in Clearwater, there was the conflict over a parking space.
So maybe no one should be surprised that race-baiting provocateur Tony Daniel has invoked the controversial self-defense law against accusations that he beat two women with a bullhorn in Tampa when they took offense to one of his public displays.
Tony Daniel's stand your ground motion was made public this week. It declares that he is a victim, and that he was struck first for simply exercising his First Amendment rights.
Daniel, who is black, is widely known in Tampa for messages that appear to target African-Americans.
If you drive city streets often enough, you might see him roadside with his pickup truck or one of his giant signs bearing the n-word and Confederate and Nazi flags. He's also known for appearances in front of the Tampa City Council, which earlier this year changed its rules, largely because of him, banning vulgar and threatening speech.
Then came his arrest, and charges of misdemeanor battery, and, now, a claim of self-defense.
The 25-page court paper, filed by Assistant Public Defender Rocky Brancato, says that Daniel was engaged in constitutionally-protected speech when he was forced to defend himself and his wife "against the imminent and unlawful use of actual force by the two violently-enraged aggressors."
Brancato describes Daniel as "a professional protester for over 45 years, focusing mainly on racial-justice issues on behalf of African American people." The paper quotes the racist message on Daniel's sign, "Homeless (n------) go back to Africa," and includes a footnote:
"Although Mr. Daniel's sign may be offensive to some people, the United States Supreme Court has found similar speech to be constitutionally protected."
The motion offers new details of how the July 13 incident played out, peppered with snapshots of surveillance and cell phone images that depict the confrontation.
Daniel was doing his thing that morning at the corner of Hyde Park Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard. He spoke through the bullhorn and held his sign, which also carried images of a Confederate flag, the American flag, and a Nazi flag.
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Daniel's wife, Rosanna, was not participating in his demonstration, but stood nearby and recorded cell phone videos of his interactions.
Rowshana Tukes, 41, and her daughter, Nayvia Tukes, 19, who are also black, saw Daniel as they drove along Kennedy. They pulled over to confront him.
"What is this sign about?" Nayvia Tukes said, according to the motion, as she stepped out of a Ford Mustang. "Are you going to explain?"
Rowshana Tukes followed.
"How nasty can he be?" she said. "That is derogatory and you're an African American man standing here with that word."
As the two women approached, Daniel was already chatting with a man, who described himself as "a Canadian with Jamaican roots," according to the motion. When Nayvia Tukes suggested that Daniel should be arrested for displaying the sign, the Canadian man told her that Daniel still has free speech rights.
"The Canadian man said this, even though he personally disagreed with the way Mr. Daniel had chosen to express himself," Brancato wrote.
Throughout the encounter, the motion states, the women were aggressive and moved to "invade Mr. Daniel's personal space."
Rowshana Tukes hit Daniel's right upper body with her left hand, then hit the sign, the motion states. Nayvia Tukes then pushed Daniel.
Rowshana Tukes tried to restrain her daughter, but the younger woman broke free and charged toward Daniel, hitting his sign again, the motion states. Bystanders shouted "it's not worth it!" as the women screamed threats and obscenities.
Daniel became afraid. But he first took no defensive action, according to the motion. He asked his wife to get the tag number off the women's car.
Nayvia Tukes approached again and punched Daniel in the eye, according to the motion, knocking off his glasses. That's when Daniel swung the bullhorn toward the women several times. He pursued them as they fled toward their car, his attorney wrote, fearing they might go for a weapon.
As bystanders separated the group, Nayvia Tukes picked up a broken bullhorn piece and moved into a throwing posture, the motion states. Her mother took it away.
Daniel used his sign as a shield. The women continued to make threatening comments, according to the motion. At one point, Nayvia Tukes opened the car's trunk and moved to retrieve something, but a bystander closed it.
Nayvia Tukes got back in the car and began to drive. Daniel feared she would try to run over him. She stepped back out and later tried to punch him again, the motion states. Her mother pursued Daniel's wife, hitting her several times and trying to take her cell phone.
Both women are younger and in better physical shape than Daniel, Brancato noted.
"The only thing Mr. Daniel knew was that these women wanted blood and were willing to use force to get it," the motion states.
The stand your ground law says a person faced with a violent confrontation has no duty to retreat and can use force if in fear of imminent harm. A recent change to the law, which put the burden of proof on prosecutors in such cases, has led to a rise in stand your ground claims throughout the state.
The court paper notes that authorities completed an arrest affidavit for Rowshana Tukes, alleging battery against Daniel's wife. But weeks later, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office decided not to proceed with a case against her.
Daniel, meanwhile, was arrested on a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Prosecutors later reduced it to two counts of misdemeanor battery.
The next hearing is set for Tuesday.
Contact Dan Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.