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Illicit CP - December 2003

Corpun file 12448

Pioneer Press, Minneapolis, 17 December 2003

Court: Spanking intended no harm

By Jennifer Bjorhus
Pioneer Press

A worker who sued his Minnesota employer and co-workers for physical, psychological and financial injuries he allegedly suffered after an on-the-job birthday spanking has lost a key court battle.

While saying the workplace tradition of spanking fellow union employees with a two-by-four was "childish, unnecessary, and ultimately injurious behavior," a state appeals judge ruled Tuesday that neither Jeremy Meinstma's coworkers nor his employer intended to hurt him, so Meinstma's claim is exclusively a workers' compensation case.

Meinstma's attorney, Marcia Rowland, called the decision "shocking" and said she plans to appeal. Meinstma could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Rowland said Meinstma was beaten so badly that he was spitting up blood and had to be treated in an emergency room. His injuries forced him to take a week off from work.

The ruling was a win for Loram Maintenance of Way Inc., a railroad maintenance company where the spanking occurred in 2001. Joe Hammell, the Dorsey & Whitney attorney representing Loram, deemed the ruling good. He called the case "unusual" and claimed that Loram's managers didn't know about the tradition.

Loram vice president Don Cherrey characterized the spanking as a prank gone awry in a "boys-will-be-boys" union environment.

The company, located in the town of Hamel, west of Minneapolis, does rail line maintenance work and makes the heavy equipment for maintaining the lines. About 65 of Loram's employees are union members, Cherrey said. Meinstma voluntarily left the company and Loram eventually settled with some co-workers to get them to leave, too, Cherrey said.

Loram has since banned the spankings and flushed out the culprits, Cherrey said. The upcoming holiday potluck promises to be without incident.

"All the silliness is done," Cherrey said. "I think we've cleaned out the ringleaders of the silliness."

Keith Grover, a staff representative at the United Steelworkers of America district office in Minneapolis, said the union didn't know about the Loram birthday tradition and doesn't condone it.

"Any kind of hazing, which is what I would call that, is just ridiculous and doesn't belong in the workplace," Grover said.

Attorney Rowland said she's deciding whether to ask the Minnesota Court of Appeals to reconsider the decision with a full court, instead of three judges, or to petition for permission to appeal to the state Supreme Court. The workers' compensation system offers only limited benefit and isn't the way to address such a serious attack, Rowland said. Her client hasn't pursued workers' comp yet, she added.

Rowland said co-workers threw Meinstma onto the ground and repeatedly hit him with a two-by-four made to look like a baseball bat. The club had holes in it, she said, to cut down wind resistance.

According to the summary of the original complaint in the ruling, Loram managers knew about the birthday spankings and didn't stop them, and a manager once took part in one.

"I find it shocking that there is not a remedy," Rowland said.

© 2003 Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Corpun file 12494

Sun-Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 29 December 2003

Little Haiti shop owner says he's justified in spanking teenage girl

By Diana Marrero
Miami Bureau

MIAMI -- The 13-year-old girl has a pretty face and a slight frame. But to Lonnie Grigsby, 52, her sweet appearance masks an unruly attitude.

Grigsby, who runs a mini-mart just blocks from the girl's middle school in Little Haiti, says the teenager sassed him one too many times this month.

So Grigsby took off his belt and gave the girl what he thought she needed: a "good whupping."

"She's beyond sassy; she's out of control," said Grigsby, who said he hit the girl after she called him a number of expletives and threw two coins at his head. "I bet her parents never gave her a whupping. She needed it."

Grigsby's actions landed him in jail and set off a firestorm of debate in a community divided by both generational and cultural differences when it comes to disciplining children.

In a neighborhood that's grown increasingly Haitian, Grigsby's actions resonate with many people -- immigrants grappling with American views on corporal punishment and older AfricanAmericans who remember when even their neighbors could whip them with a switch.

But those who disagree with Grigsby point to his arrest as proof our society no longer tolerates that kind of behavior.

Grigsby says his troubles with the girl began long before his arrest Dec. 12. Grigsby said the teen, who was not identified by police to protect her privacy, had shoplifted items, called him names and disregarded numerous pleas to stop skating inside the market.

But Grigsby, who says he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in the early '80s, hesitated calling the police for fear of giving the girl the same black mark he has had to deal with for decades.

The breaking point, he said, was when she gave him too much money for a 60-cent bag of chips.

"You can't count?" he recalls asking.

That's when he said the girl began calling him names, spat at him and threw the two nickels he returned to her at his head.

"She wanted to stand in the middle of the store and argue with me like a grownup," Grigsby said. "Somebody's got to step up and say, `You can't act like that in public.'"

Grigsby, who is African-American, says his parents never spared him the belt. And he, in turn, never spared it on any of his eight children, who turned out just fine, he said.

"Nobody's in jail, nobody has a criminal record, nobody got shot. That's good to me," said Grigsby, who argues that children these days don't respect adults because society has become too soft on discipline.

But to Dan Kaufman, an attorney representing the Haitian girl in a pending lawsuit, Grigsby's comments are completely out of line.

"There's not a jury in this country who would support this type of behavior," Kaufman said. "If he wants to practice that on his own children, I pray for them, but he certainly can't do that to a child he doesn't even know."

Grigsby, who is out on $6,500 bail, is charged with misdemeanor battery and false imprisonment, a felony, for allegedly ordering another young customer to lock the shop's door and then beating the girl. He will celebrate his 53rd birthday in court at his arraignment Friday.

While he doesn't deny hitting his teenage customer, Grigsby says the door was never locked -- a distinction that could make a big difference in Grigsby's sentence if he's convicted.

Grigsby, who is raising two young daughters, worries his fiancée might have to close Legends Mini-Mart and he will have to send his daughters to live with relatives in Michigan if he is found guilty of the false imprisonment charge -- which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

"Just for giving a girl a spanking, I get all this attention," Grigsby said.

Grigsby ran a cab company in Detroit before coming to Miami five years ago to get away from street violence. He and his fiancée chose the mini-mart because it was near two schools, which they figured would provide him a steady customer base.

But the business, only miles from downtown Miami, also came with unexpected headaches: Children who misbehave and steal items from his store and a neighborhood that's nearly as violent as the one he left behind.

Still, Grigsby said he got along with most of his young customers and business was going smoothly until his recent arrest.

A sign posted outside the mini-mart instructs students to dress nicely and neatly comb their hair if they want to testify on his behalf during his trial because the case will be aired on Court TV.

The cable network's producers say they have no plans to broadcast Grigsby's case.

Grigsby just might round up a few students to take the stand for him. Many children who visit the shop to buy candy or play video games say the man they call "Pops" is a good, kind man.

"He don't hurt nobody," said Patrick Gillens, a 10th-grader at the high school nearby. And if he hit the girl, she must have deserved it, Gillens said.

Even among members of the same family, however, Grigsby's actions are debatable.

"She's lucky that's all she got was a whupping with a belt," said Sandy Joseph, a 23-year-old Haitian-American mother. "I'm sorry but these kids now, they're rude."

But Joseph's cousin, Nancy Joseph, said she would never hit her two children, much less someone else's child.

"Kids need to be disciplined, not spanked," she said.

Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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