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Controversial atheist activist arrested, accused of being too loud in bedroom

5:56 AM, May 5, 2011   |    comments
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Lakeland, Florida --  Ellenbeth Wachs has been no stranger to controversy in recent months.

As legal advisor to the Atheist of Florida, she has placed herself in the headlines by installing billboards across the area, fighting the Lakeland City Council and Polk County School Board over prayer before meetings and even Sheriff Grady Judd for donating jail basketball hoops to churches.

But now, she's fighting her own legal battle... again.

On Monday, she was arrested on a charge of Simulation of a Sexual Act in the Presence of a Child.

According to an arrest affidavit, Wachs' neighbor is accusing her of being "too loud" in her own bedroom.

The neighbor claims it all started when Wachs yelled at his 10-year-old son to stop playing basketball on the morning of March 13th.  (We are not naming the neighbor because he is the parent of an alleged sexual offense victim, according to the State Attorney's Office.)

The report states the child went back into his home and told his father what had happened, but was too afraid to go back outside, because of previous encounters with Wachs.

Trying to show his son it was OK to play outside, the father told investigators he went back out and played basketball with the 10-year-old.

This is where the stories begin to differ.

The father claims they began to hear inappropriate noises coming from inside Wachs' home, stating that he heard her scream, "Oh John!" over and over again.  The screams allegedly become louder each time.  He compared it to the sounds of a woman "experiencing sexual gratification."

The father says his son became worried about the loud screams, concerned about what was going on and whether Ms. Wachs was safe.

The father claims it was Wachs' goal to get them to go back inside.

On Monday, the State Attorney's Office filed a charge of Simulation of a Sexual Act in the Presence of a Child against Wachs after the father managed to get the attention of Assistant State Attorney Brad Copely when an injunction for protection hearing was rescheduled late last month.

"I think this is an example of us moving in a direction where we take legitimate issues that require prosecution and move them to an area of persecution," said Wachs' attorney, John Liguori.

He says Wachs was not yelling out in ecstacy.

"It's my understanding that there was another individual in her home whose name is John, that she was calling him to come help her," explained Liguori.  He tells us Wachs had taken her chemotherapy medication the night before and was tired.

"It is very clear in the affidavit that no one viewed sexual activity occurring, no one observed her engaged in any illegal or sexually illicit activity or sexual activity of any kind, and now we've chosen to rise speech to the level of a sex act," said Liguori.

Liguouri says it's no secret Wachs is not well liked in her gated Lakeland neighborhood, or even by many in the county.

Neighbors, who asked not be named call Wachs a "true narcissist" that creates problems in the community and incites confrontations with her neighbors, including the neighborhood children.

The same affidavit also states she was heard by the father's 16-year-old son saying "[expletive] Easter is stupid" and "Christians are stupid to believe such a [expletive] superstition and that Easter is just about sex and that is why the symbol of the rabbit is used since "rabbits [expletive] all the time."  The report states she allegedly said she needs to "put orgy signs in her front yard as well as hang condoms from the tree" in response to the neighbor's Easter decorations.

Wachs may be disliked and considered a media hungry narcissist by her neighbors, but her most recent arrest raises the question... should you be concerned about being arrested in the event your "private enjoyment" is overheard by a child?

Liguori said, "I guess that's the ultimate issue of fact here.  I don't think on its face there is anything here that represents that it has risen to the level of lewd and lascivious behavior, but I do not deny the prosecution is focused on her."

The Polk County Sheriff's Office would not comment on the case.

Chip Thullbery with the State Attorney's Office wrote, "I can simply say that this prosecution was brought in good faith based on sworn statements which indicated a violation of Florida law."

Liguori says he doubts this most recent case would have made it as far as it has had it not been for the father being a local public servant who was able to get the ear of the State Attorney's Office.

The very first line of the arrest affidavit states the sheriff's detective was in court to attend a injunction for protection hearing requested by the boy's father against Wachs, because of the detectives' involvement in a separate investigation against her for impersonating an attorney

The hearing was rescheduled, because Wachs had not been served and was not present.

This is when the affidavit shows the father was able to get the attention Assistant State Attorney Brad Copley.

"A 15 year felony for a neighborhood dispute?" questioned Liguori, "I think number one, they don't like people speaking out and challenging their authority.  Number two, I think we have a rich history of the sheriff micro-managing people's lives.  We see it in all of the operations he does, bringing people in from all over the world to arrest them and third, I think they facially believe this is a violation of the law."

Wachs remained in the Polk County Jail as of Wednesday night due to her February arrest for impersonating an attorney.

While she is a law school graduate, she has not passed the Florida Bar.

Liguori has requested a pre-trial release hearing on Friday, stating that she is not a threat to the community. 

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