Elderly Man Jailed, Stripped of Home, Guns, Over Neighbor Dispute
HERNANDO BEACH – Like so many other Florida retirees, 84-year-old Sidney Bitman enjoys boating, gardening and watching beautiful sunsets from his waterfront home at 5036 Cedarbrook Lane. All that changed last Friday, when he received a knock at the door and was hauled off to jail by Sheriff’s Deputies, where he remained for three days.
Bitman, a 13-year resident of Cedarbrook lane, says his neighbors, James and Robin Nardozzi, purchased the home next door, (5040 Cedarbrook Lane) about two years ago and there have been problems ever since.
Almost immediately after moving in, Bitman says the Nardozzi’s began complaining about his garden, trees, and condition of his boat. Bitman did what he could to appease his neighbors but the problems persisted.
According to Bitman, the Nardozzi’s began conducting major renovations to their home, including a new bathroom addition, fence, windows, doors, electrical wiring, a new roof, and several other interior and exterior modifications. Bitman claims, all the work done on the home was completed without acquiring county permits, so he contacted County Code Enforcement investigate.
Soon after that call was made, “someone” threw paint all over Bitman’s pickup truck, poured poison on his vegetables and cut branches off his citrus trees. When complained, authorities said it was a civil matter and without proof of who committed the acts, there would be no arrests.
On July 14th 2014, the Nardozzi’s claimed Bitman chased them with a shovel and shouted obscenities at them. Later that month, they claimed he chased him with a small caliber pistol around the yard. Bitman says there is no way he chased them around the yard, due to a recent hip replacement and injured ankle. “I can barely walk – how could I chase them around?” says Bitman. He claims the Nardozzi’s came to his home and James Nardozzi pushed him backwards when he opened the door. That’s when Bitman says he pulled his small caliber handgun and waved it in the air to scare them away.
On July 30th, the Nardozzi’s filed a motion for protection against repeat violence with Hernando County Courts, which was subsequently granted by Judge Toner, for a period of 6-months.
Bitman tried to have a similar order of protection placed against the Nardozzi’s which was denied by Judge Toner.
In January, the Nardozzi’s filed a new motion for protection against Mr. Bitman, claiming that he was stalking them, by photographing their activity. Bitman says he installed video cameras to protect his property from further vandalism and only photographed the Nardozzi’s to have proof of their undocumented home improvement projects. Once again, Judge Toner granted the petition until further order of the Court.
As part of the terms, Bitman is not to come within 500 feet of the Nardozzi’s, but with the two homes situation side-by-side, this presented an obvious problem.
Because the Nardozzi’s only stay in the home on weekends, Judge Toner ordered Bitman to leave his home on Friday and not return until Monday, every week, until the expiration of the order.
Last Friday, the Nardozzi’s returned to their residence and noticed Bitman inside his home, after 7:00 P.M. According to court order, Bitman was supposed to vacate his residence by 5:00 P.M. Later that evening Deputies arrived at the home and placed Bitman under arrest for violating the terms of the injunction. Bitman says he was unaware of the time frame and that his Attorney, Jimmy Brown, never advised him of those parameters.
Last night, deputies returned to his home and according to Bitman they demanded that he turn over his firearms. Bitman told them he had no firearms and that he gave them to his girlfriend to hold until the injunction was lifted. Not believing him, Bitman says they asked that his girlfriend bring the gun to his residence immediately and hand the weapon over. She complied, says Bitman and they took possession of his firearm.
Bitman believes Judge Toner is wrong in forcing him to vacate his home and for stripping him of his right to bear arms. Bitman hope his attorney can do something to reverse the damage that has been done.
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