Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Health

Prosecutors drop lockdown violation charges against Pinellas Park game shop owner

The state dropped the charges because the owner has since complied. But the owner still says he did nothing wrong. A Republican lawmaker plans to challenge the emergency orders in court.
Owner Galen Trent Wood, 36, left, was arrested for violating the safer-at-home order by keeping his tabletop gaming business, Kitchen Table Games at 9600 66th St. N in Pinellas Park, open for pick-up, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. On the right are Pokémon cards advertised by his business on Facebook.
Owner Galen Trent Wood, 36, left, was arrested for violating the safer-at-home order by keeping his tabletop gaming business, Kitchen Table Games at 9600 66th St. N in Pinellas Park, open for pick-up, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. On the right are Pokémon cards advertised by his business on Facebook. [ Pinellas County Sheriff's Office | Facebook ]
Published May 4, 2020

Prosecutors have dropped the charges against a Pinellas Park business owner accused of violating state and local stay-at-home orders.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office dropped the case on Friday because business owner Galen Trent Wood, 36, has complied with the emergency orders since his April 16 arrest, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett.

“The whole idea is to get people to comply,” Bartlett said. “Once they get it into compliance, everything’s okay. But sometimes people don’t take the easiest path.”

Related: Arrest a ‘show of hubris’ by Pinellas sheriff, says owner of gaming business

Wood owns Kitchen Table Games at 9600 66th St. N, which sells cards and games such as Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Dragon Ball Super Card Games. The shop was open only for shipping and curbside pickup, but the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said deputies saw customers walk up to the storefront and have contact with employees.

The business owner was arrested on two misdemeanor charges. One count stems from a state emergency order, which made it illegal to leave home for a non-essential service, said Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri at the time of Wood’s arrest. Gov. Ron DeSantis has since rolled out a plan to reopen the state that began Monday.

The second count stemmed from a Pinellas County emergency order, requiring the closure of any retail establishment not deemed essential by the state.

Wood said Monday he felt “vindicated" by the state attorney’s decision to drop the charges. He reopened his shop Monday on a limited basis, joining a wave of businesses reopening their doors amid the loosened restrictions.

Related: Florida is reopening today. Is the plan safe?

“It’s a victory for me and all the small businesses ... being harassed and intimidated by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office," he said of the state attorney’s decision.

Wood has maintained that he was operating legally, pointing to directions from DeSantis’ office that encouraged business owners to provide pickup and delivery to customers. But the local order required that all non-essential retail establishments close, the sheriff said.

On Monday, Gualtieri said he stands by his arrest but agreed with Bartlett that the case no longer needed to be pursued in court.

“Sometimes, especially in these situations, the arrest takes care of the problem, and that’s as far as it needs to go," the sheriff said.

Wood gained a powerful ally last week when state State Rep. Anthony Sabatini signed on to represent him, joining Pinellas Park attorney Gordon Oldham.

Sabatini, a Republican from Lake County, has railed against state and local lockdown orders on social media, saying they’re examples of government overreach with no legal basis. Sabatini said Monday he plans to file a lawsuit challenging the legality of stay-at-home orders.

• • •

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines

Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter

We’ll deliver the latest news and information you need to know every weekday morning.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

HAVE YOU LOST SOMEONE YOU LOVE TO COVID-19?: Help us remember them

UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits

CONTRIBUTE TO THE SCRAPBOOK: Help us tell the story of life under coronavirus

BRIGHT SPOTS IN DARK TIMES: The world is hard right now, but there’s still good news out there

LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information, six days a week

WATCH VIDEO: How some in Tampa Bay are finding light amid isolation

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.

Advertisement

This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge