Blind World Magazine

Hearing set in disabled rights case.

December 16, 2005.
St. Petersburg Times, Florida.

BROOKSVILLE - On Nov. 5, clerk Mohammed Hamed took a look at David Bearden and his Seeing Eye dog, a German shepherd named Isaac, and allegedly made them leave the BP mini-mart at the corner of Jefferson Street and Ponce de Leon Boulevard.

On Wednesday afternoon, in County Judge Don Scaglione's courtroom, Hamed, 63, was arraigned on misdemeanor charges that he violated the rights of a disabled person.

It was the first case called on the 2 p.m. docket and took not even five minutes.

Hamed pleaded not guilty.

Scaglione set a pretrial hearing for 9 a.m. Feb. 23.

Bearden, 48, who lost almost all of his vision in a biohazard accident 16 years ago, opted not to let Hamed get pretrial intervention and the lighter sanctions that go with it.

"That's a slap on the hand," Bearden said outside the courtroom. "He was so abusive in the store. I'm not going to let him get off."

Bearden's version of the events of Nov. 5 is as follows:

He stopped at the BP with his son to get a cold soda. Bearden is a longtime activist for the blind and is president of the National Federation for the Blind for Hernando and east Pasco counties. Hamed told them they couldn't come in with the dog.

Bearden told Hamed it was his right to come in with his "service animal."

"I gave him the law three times," he told the Times when it first happened.

But Hamed told him to leave and that the dog was going to eat the food in the store, Bearden said, and then chased him out and told him not to call the cops.

Hamed's version goes as follows:

He didn't know Bearden was blind, and when he realized that he was he offered to get him what he wanted, he told the Times.

Bearden said it didn't happen that way at all.

The state filed charges Nov. 22.

On Wednesday, just before 2, Bearden had on dark glasses and sat in the front row of the courtroom. He chatted with Assistant State Attorney Lisa Chittaro. Isaac was resting with his face on the rug.

Hamed wore gray slacks and a gray coat.

He stood up when his name was called.

The actual arraignment was quick.

Then Isaac led Bearden out into the hallway by the courtroom.

"(Hamed) told me to stop," Bearden said when asked to go over what happened Nov. 5. "You could hear him hitting the counter."

Hamed opened the courtroom door. He came into the corridor.

"Wait a minute," Bearden said in a quiet voice. "I can hear him."

Hamed moved closer.

"Excuse me," he said. "Sir?"

"I can't talk to you," Bearden said.

"I want to apologize," Hamed said.

"I can't talk to you right now," Bearden said again.

"Thank you very much," Hamed said. "God bless you."

He walked down the hall and toward the elevator.

Bearden stood still and waited until he had.

"He scared the s--- out of me," he finally said. " "God bless you' isn't going to cut it."

Michael Kruse can be reached at or 352 848-1434

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