‘Your husband or your guns’ — Part Two

By Lee Williams

Nearly three months ago, a Charlotte County, Florida judge told Lisa Marok that if she didn’t renounce her Second Amendment rights, give up her Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License and remove every single firearm and every single round of ammunition from her home, her husband would be sent to a state prison for 19 months. If she complied and relinquished her civil rights and her firearms, her husband would walk out of the courtroom a free man.

“You have a choice,” Circuit Judge Shannon H. McFee told her. “Your husband or your guns.”

Critics – and there were more than a few – described Judge McFee’s decision as illegal, unconstitutional and possibly even criminal.

A story published in October revealed how Lisa Marok’s husband, Ralph Marok, shot his neighbor’s home and Mercury Montego in April 2022. No one was injured during the late-night shooting.

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office deputies seized all of the firearms from Marok’s home, not just those involved in the shooting. Many of the firearms belonged to Lisa Marok and the couple’s son, Thomas Marok.

Ralph Marok was charged with violating two state statutes: 790.19 – Shooting Throwing into Vehicle or Dwelling, a felony, and 806.13 1b1 – Criminal Mischief Under $200 Damage, a misdemeanor.

Prosecutors offered Ralph Marok a no-jail plea deal, in which he would be sentenced to 10 years of probation, but the term would be reduced to five years if he successfully completed a treatment program, attended AA meetings regularly and made restitution to his neighbors. Lisa Marok accompanied her husband to the hearing to accept the plea deal, which was a mere formality, or so she thought.

“When the judge told Ralph he couldn’t have a single gun in the house, whatsoever, I kind of made a face. I assumed the judge was looking at me, because he called me up to the stand and swore me in — he swore me in,” Lisa Marok said during an interview for the October story. “The judge told me I couldn’t ever own a gun again — ever in my life. He said you’ve got a choice — your husband or your guns. In a joking manner, I said ‘can I have a minute?’ Of course, I was going to pick my husband. He said we cannot have guns in the house – any guns whatsoever. He said I couldn’t carry one for protection anymore. He took away all of my Second Amendment rights.”

Today, all of the family’s firearms still remain in the custody of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.

The son’s guns

Thomas Marok, 36, served as a corpsman in the U.S. Navy. He currently works as an anesthesia technician at a hospital in the Milwaukee area and is studying to become a physician’s assistant. He drove home to Charlotte County over the Christmas holidays to see his parents and to retrieve his guns.

Thomas Marok called the Sherriff’s Office repeatedly over several days but got no response. Finally, Sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas Barker returned his calls.

“Barker told me the State Attorney said she’s not releasing the guns unless there’s a court order because the judge said specifically that my mom had to choose between her guns or her husband, and she chose her husband, so the guns won’t be released without an order from the court,” Thomas Marok said Wednesday. “I’m very upset and frustrated. At the very least, my personal firearms weren’t used in the incident involving my dad, so I don’t understand why I can’t get my firearms back.”

Thomas Marok said deputies seized his Chinese SKS, a Colt 1911 and a .357 Magnum revolver.

“I want all of my family’s firearms,” he said. “I’ll take them back to Milwaukee with me, where they’ll be in my possession in my gun safe.”

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, Thomas Conroy III, confirmed Marok’s account.

“The firearms belong to his father, Ralph Marok, who is a convicted felon. Thomas Marok now claims that he is the owner of the firearms. The State’s Attorney’s Office of Florida, advised that the guns will not be returned to Thomas without a court order. For any further questions, I would refer you to the [State Attorney’s Office],” Conroy wrote in an email.

In a follow-up email, Conroy wrote, “Just so we are clear after speaking with the [State Attorney’s Office], the order came directly from the Judge overseeing this case.

Samantha Syoen, communications director for Amira D. Fox, State Attorney for Florida’s 20th Judicial District, said “It was the judge who made the decision. It would be up to the judge to undo.”

When asked whether the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office was violating Florida’s preemption statute by refusing to return Marok’s firearms, Syoen said “I have nothing to – I’m not associated with what’s going on at the Sheriff’s Office.”

Previous infringements

Florida’s powerful preemption statute prohibits any state, county, city or other public entity from regulating firearms by “enacting or causing to be enforced any local ordinance or administrative rule or regulation” that regulates arms. Only the state legislature has such regulatory authority, the statute mandates. Any public official who violates the preemption statute can face removal from office and up to $5,000 in fines, which the statute requires them to pay personally.

As the agency head and chief administrative officer, Charlotte County Sheriff Prummell is personally responsible for any illegal rules or policies that violate preemption. Sheriff Prummell did not respond to calls or emails seeking an interview for this story.

This is not the first time Prummell has been accused of violating the civil rights of his constituents.

In 2019, it was learned his office had been compiling an illegal registry of gun owners by using a pawn shop database, which is a felony. Florida state law prohibits any government agency from “knowingly and willfully keep or cause to be kept any list, record, or registry of privately owned firearms or any list, record, or registry of the owners of those firearms.” The database Prummell’s deputies created contained the names of people who pawned guns and a description of the firearms, which included their serial numbers.

At the time, neither State Attorney Fox nor Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody chose to prosecute or even investigate these allegations.