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Khan v. Deutschman

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

October 11, 2019

Sajed Khan, Appellant,
v.
Laura Deutschman, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. Jonathan Sjostrom, Judge.

          Mark V. Murray, Tallahassee, and Kevin Robert Alvarez, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Thomas J. Schulte, Jr. of Ausley McMullen, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          KETCHEL, TERRANCE R., ASSOCIATE JUDGE.

         Sajed Khan challenges the lower court's final judgment granting Laura Deutschman a dating violence injunction against him. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

         It is well established that a trial court has broad discretion to enter an injunction, and a decision based on that discretion will not be overturned absent a finding that the court abused that discretion. Pickett v. Copeland, 236 So.3d 1142, 1143-44 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018). "It [is] the responsibility of the trial court to determine the credibility of the witnesses and to resolve the conflicts in evidence." Jeffries v. Jeffries, 133 So.3d 1243, 1244 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014) (citing Disston v. Hanson, 116 So.3d 612 (Fla. 5th DCA 2013)). "It is well-established that the appellate court does not re- weigh the evidence or the credibility of the witnesses." Lahodik v. Lahodik, 696 So.2d 533, 535 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007).

         As is often the case with pro se litigants in domestic violence injunction hearings, the testimony of the parties in this case was sometimes contradictory, and even in direct dispute on several crucial matters. The parties engaged in an eight- to eleven-month romantic relationship that by all accounts was a significant relationship. The parties stayed at each other's homes occasionally during their relationship, lived together for short periods of time, and traveled together. On the other hand, both parties acknowledged that the relationship was rocky and was often "on again, off again."

         Of significance to this case, in the middle of November 2017, the two broke up, and a few days later, had a rather public falling out when Appellant saw Appellee in the arms of another man at a local bar. Appellee yelled at Appellant because she felt that Appellant followed her to the bar. The fight stretched into the early hours of the next morning via a string of mostly unanswered text messages.

         Importantly, Appellee ended the fight by telling Appellant that she never wanted to talk to him again, and she immediately blocked him from contacting her by phone and social media. Appellee was unequivocal at this time that she wanted no further contact and that this was permanent. She made no further contact with Appellant, even in the face of repeated efforts by him to communicate. Appellant claims that Appellee called him one time following this no contact request, on a blocked phone number, and spoke with him for forty-five minutes, a claim that Appellee vigorously denied.

         Appellee also testified that Appellant struck her in the face a year earlier, pointing to the volatile nature of the relationship, an accusation that the Appellant denied.

         Over the next few months, in an apparent attempt to reconcile, Appellant continued to try to contact Appellee via several texts, a formal letter, flowers, and on at least one occasion, a phone call, none of which were responded to by Appellee. On the contrary, during this time, Appellee attempted to stop Appellant from contacting her by having her attorney send Appellant a cease and desist letter, which Appellant received. Ultimately, Appellee contacted the police to assist her in having Appellant stop contacting her. When this was not successful, Appellee finally filed for an injunction to prevent dating violence.

         The trial court commented that it was flabbergasted by Appellant's failure to heed the attorney's formal cease and desist letter, and the court concluded that it considered the continued communications following clear directions to stop as "hectoring." Based on these facts the trial court entered a final injunction on the Petition for Protection Against Dating Violence for a period of one year.

         Appellant raises "the question of whether the evidence is legally sufficient to justify imposing an injunction [which] is a question of law that we review de novo." Pickett, 236 So.3d at 1144 (citing Wills ...


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