Comment: The News-Press came out with the original article about my arrest destroying my reputation within the community. Within the next few months they promised to clear up the story but never did. This article resulted after I sat in the lobby of the paper for several days. In investigating the article, Bob Norman checked with Commissioner Judah and learned for the first time for certain that Commissioner Judah had not made any sworn statement accusing me of threatening him; as claimed in the Information and it would appear the Amended Information as well. However although he was digging into this and other matters of unethical conduct, the paper did not print them. Although he did not say so, it appears that his superiors at the paper were blocking him from digging further into this and the many other questions of crooked dealing.
Aspiring developer Robert Allston wrote a pamphlet more than two years ago in which he included details on how easy it would be to blow up the Lee County Attorney's Office.
The soft spoken, 59-year old former map maker and community volunteer said he added the part about the bomb as an afterthought to bring attention to his fruitless, frustrating battle with the county to build a road to his property south of Fort Myers.
Assistant County Attorney David Owen --- who Allston says he was "tweaking" --- interpreted it as a threat on his life and reported it to police. Allston was arrested and charged with threatening public officials.
Today, the case is scheduled to come to trial, a trial Allston's demanding. H's turned down offers of plea agreements that promise no further jail time, and prosecutor Lise Plattner says that two of the four charges against Allston --- those involving Commissioner Ray Judah --- probably don't have enough evidence to hold up in court.
Judge William Nelson has said that he won't impose a jail sentence even if Allston's convicted.
Allston's unwillingness to plea bargain has perturbed so of his previous attorneys, including Fort Myers' Frank Alderman, who professes a fondness for Allston but also found him so difficult that he refused to further represent him.
"He's a good guy," Alderman says. But he's his own worst enemy."
A MAN OBSESSED
Allston's certainly not your usual resident fighting city hall. He's a man obsessed with his case.
Since the pamphlet was circulated, Allston has gone from his dream of developing his land bordering the Forest to being homeless.
He has gone from spending 11 months in jail to fighting to return to jail.
He has gone from bing a respected member of the community to being what his former attorney calls "Lee County's version of Henry David Thoreau".
One thing that has remained constant is Allston's determination to write about the things he perceives as wrong, which is what he says is what got him in trouble with the law in the first place.
After 12 years of fruitless haggling with county attorneys, hearing examiners and owners of adjacent properties to try and develop his 60 acres of Island Park Road property, he wrote a philosophical, often rambling tract titled "Notes on Institutionalized Corruption in the Lee County Attorney's Office," describing in detail how he, a Florida cracker," could make a bomb, put it in the "cheapest briefcase" he could find and blow up the building.
Allston, a University of Florida graduate and former Massachusetts Institute of Technology staffer in the mathematics department, says he added the four paragraphs at the last minute to get the attention of Owen, who made the legal decision that made it impossible for Allston to develop his land, and Judah, who had promised to help Allston.
It may have been a mater of bad timing: Allston delivered the text on March 23, 1994, just six weeks after Lee County Superintendent James Adams was shot dead in his office.
And with the Oklahoma City bombing and the suspected Unabomber --- himself a former mathematician --- it's no secret what someone with an ideological crusade and a penchant for explosives can do.
But the idea of him hurting anyone shocks many who know him.
"He has to be one of the most gentle, kind people I have ever known in my entire life," said Debbie Stromquist, a member of the auxiliary of the Lee County Alliance of the Arts, where Allston volunteered his time to photograph and record events.
Could Stromquist see Allston --- who is honored with his name on a plaque outside of the Alliance building --- bomb anything?
"That's the last thing in the world he would do and you can print that in italics and end it with an exclamation point," she said.
HE'S NOT CRAZY
Fort Myers attorney Terry Lenick was sifting through the massive Allston file in his office when he called out to an assistant, "Do we have a box to put Allston in?"
Lenick immediately laughs at the irony: That's exactly what most everybody in the Lee County justice system would like to do, he agrees.
Allston was released from jail in February after spending 11 months awaiting trial, during which he embarked on a number of hunger strikes.
Ever since, he has been fighting to get back into jail.
He has engaged in sit-ins at the State Attorney's Office and the Lee County Jail to get his wish. He's been jailed three subsequent times for trespassing.
Authorities have committed Allston to mental health facilities three times, but each time, psychiatrists said he doesn't belong there.
"He's just not Baker-Actable and everyone is going to find that out," Lenick says emphatically of Allston. The Baker Act allows people to be committed because they're said to be a danger to themselves and others.
"A hunger strike doesn't make me a nut case," Allston says.
While none of his defense attorneys has used an insanity defense, Plattner ordered a psychiatric examination of Allston to see if he's competent for trial.
Plattner says the move was designed to ensure that Allston, if convicted, doesn't try to appeal the case based on his mental state. "It's a question in our mind now, and we don't want it to come back later," Plattner says.
So Allston continues, without a home, without his land, without even his trusty computer, which was confiscated as evidence in the criminal case. He spends his days alternating between the public library downtown and the law library at the Lee County Justice Center.
At night, he finds a place to sleep.
He's very thin now --- he says he has lost at least 40 pounds during his series of hunger strikes --- and he's sometimes subject to a nasty cough. his clothes are dirty and he rarely has an opportunity to take baths.
He acknowledges that his campaign may seem a little crazy, but doesn't foresee stopping any time soon.
"By doing the absurd, it forces them to show what they are, how corrupt they are," he says.
There are three photographs in the article. The caption under the first one reads "Bob Allston, who now is homeless, spends most of his days in the Lee County's downtown library reading and drafting legal papers in his crusade to reform the Lee County justice system." The caption to the second photograph reads "Allston sleeps in the lobby of the Lee County Jail, a violation of his parole. He is using civil disobedience in an attempt to point out that the criminal justice system needs reform, but faces trial today on charges of threatening a public official." The caption under the third photograph reads "Nowhere to go: Robert Allston carries all his belongings in a small duffle bag as he walks through the rain to find shelter in the Fort Myers Police Department lobby."
The trial referred to in the above article resulted in a hung jury.