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HomeAt Home & BeyondFollow Up to Courthouse Mix Up

Follow Up to Courthouse Mix Up

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BROOKSVILLE – Last month, the Sun published a story about Nichole Meadows, a woman suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. We recounted her story and the litany of mishaps that led to her incarceration. As of that issue, the Sun was awaiting further details from the County Clerk’s Office. Since then, new information has emerged regarding Nichole’s failure to appear before a judge.

It was initially reported to Hernando Sun that someone at the courthouse told Meadows and her mother that court had been canceled due to the recent cyberattack, but it may have been a misunderstanding due to a power outage.

Debbie Kennedy, Director of Strategy and Data Integrity & Public Records Liaison at the Office of Doug Chorvat Jr., Clerk of Circuit Court and Comptroller, stated that it was actually a power outage that had caused a delay during Judge Merritt’s docket on April 12.

“It appears there was a power outage on 4/12/2024 during Judge Merritt’s docket. Ms. Meadow’s case was called at 13:36 which was after the outage. The Court noted Ms. Meadows appearance was directed today. Someone who appears to be from the State Attorney’s Office indicated on the record that they recognized Ms. Meadows and confirmed they saw her at 11 am the day of the hearing. But they indicated she left. At this time, the Judge clearly stated on the record that parties were previously directed to stay until court could resume after the power outage. New bond was set, and a warrant was issued for Failure to Appear. ”

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Nichole’s caretaker, James Gibbons, stated in the Sun’s previous article, “the urgency of the court does not make sense to a paranoid schizophrenic.”

In a court document dated April 15, Nichole has one bond set at $10,000 for the third-degree felony of “Battery on Officer/Firefighter/EMT Etc.,” and another set for the amount of $2,000 for a first-degree misdemeanor of “Resist or obstruct officer without violence.”

She has been in jail since April and will be there until the first of August when they will reevaluate her mental health status. Nichole’s mother, Karen, laments how far the situation has developed since the incident on July 1, 2023, which resulted in the initial arrest. According to Meadows’ mother, the authorities told her they were retrieving Nichole to get her in-patient mental health care. To the family’s chagrin, the situation did not go smoothly when the authorities came to get Nichole. The mental health patient, who is slight of frame (5’5” and 113 pounds), was “kicking and screaming” during the arrest, her mother acknowledged.

“When people are in psychosis, they often do not remember what happened, what they did […] To her, it is her reality, but it is not anybody else’s reality […] She is a paranoid schizophrenic, it freaked her out when they just rushed into her room like that, so it made her psychosis worse,” Karen said.
Meadows’ mother felt that her daughter had been treated far too roughly despite the authorities knowing that Nichole was suffering from mental issues. Nichole has also been deemed incompetent to proceed due to her mental illness, with all further proceedings stayed, and she has been committed to the Department of Children and Families as of a court document signed by Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. on the third of June. Karen and James both hope her story can help other mental health patients around the county in the future.

“We definitely need to revamp what is happening here to our mental health patients in Hernando County,” Nichole’s mother said.

Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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