final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion
under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.
appeal from the Circuit Court for Gulf County. John L.
Fishel, II, Judge.
Shannon L. Novey, Christin F. Gonzalez, and Jerome M. Novey
of Novey Law, Tallahassee, for Appellant.
Rankart, pro se, Appellee.
Paulson raises two independent grounds for reversal of the
stalking injunction entered against him. First, he contends
the trial court erred in issuing the injunction because the
petitioner, Sarah Rankart, failed to demonstrate that an
incident of harassment occurred within six months of the
petition. We disagree on this point because the plain
language of the statute does not require such a showing.
However, we agree with Mr. Paulson's second argument that
the evidence was legally insufficient to support the
Paulson and Ms. Rankart are neighbors in the small town of
Port St. Joe. Ms. Rankart lives in a community of
"cottages" adjacent to Mr. Paulson's home of
thirty years. Ms. Rankart moved into her cottage in 2013.
testimony at the evidentiary hearing on the petition reflects
a rocky relationship between the neighbors from the start.
According to Ms. Rankart, she first met Mr. Paulson when he
came to her cottage one evening and yelled at her to turn off
her outdoor street-facing light. She turned off the light
that evening but soon after turned it back on for security.
After a few months with the light on, Mr. Paulson came back
to her home and asked her "in a very rude tone" to
build something around the light so it would not shine
towards his home. Months later, she started receiving notices
at her home from various authorities based on complaints by
Mr. Paulson. She wondered each day whether she would come
home to "a dog complaint or a light complaint." She
explained that she was "just tired of this man getting
to call the police on [her] just because of anything he wants
Rankart additionally claimed that Mr. Paulson would stare at
her while she sunbathed on her deck, which made her very
uncomfortable. He would watch her from his "tiny side
deck" even though he had a "huge deck" with a
beautiful view of the ocean. She also observed Mr. Paulson
looking at utility meters on her street's boardwalk on
three occasions and she did not "want him creeping
around the meters." Ms. Rankart was scared that Mr.
Paulson would be so angry and drunk one day that he would
shoot one of her dogs. She suffers from general anxiety
disorders and depression, and he "amplifies [her]
anxiety." She explained, "that's what horrible
neighbors do, you know, sometimes you just have to deal with
to Mr. Paulson, he never met Ms. Rankart before, did not know
her, and did not want to know her. He admitted that he
complained to code enforcement about her outdoor lights and
complained to animal control and law enforcement about her
barking dogs but explained that his complaints were focused
on issues of noise and light pollution and were not directed
towards Ms. Rankart or any specific person.
trial court concluded that Ms. Rankart's complaints about
Mr. Paulson's calls and reports to authorities were
insufficient under the law to support the entry of a stalking
injunction. The court also rejected Mr. Paulson's
argument that Ms. Rankart was required to establish that one
of the incidents of harassment occurred within six months of
the petition to satisfy her burden of proof. However, the
court found that Ms. Rankart's unrebutted testimony
concerning Mr. Paulson looking at her utility meters and
watching her sunbathe was sufficient for the issuance of an
injunction for protection against stalking. The court issued
a judgment of injunction to be in effect for one
784.0485, Florida Statutes (2016), provides for an injunction
for protection against stalking. Stalking occurs when a
person "willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows,
harasses, or cyberstalks another person." §
784.048(2), Fla. Stat. (2016). To "harass" means
"to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific
person which causes substantial emotional distress to that
person and serves no legitimate purpose." §
784.048(1)(a), Fla. Stat. A "course of conduct" is
"a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over
a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity
of purpose." § 784.048(1)(b), Fla. Stat. In
determining whether an incident causes "substantial
emotional distress," ...