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17581: (Hermantin)Sun-Sentinel-Little Haiti shop owner says he's justified in spanking (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Little Haiti shop owner says he's justified in spanking teenage girl

By Diana Marrero
Miami Bureau

December 29, 2003

MIAMI -- The 13-year-old girl has a pretty face and a slight frame. But to
Lonnie Grigsby, 52, her sweet appearance masks an unruly attitude.

Grigsby, who runs a mini-mart just blocks from the girl's middle school in
Little Haiti, says the teenager sassed him one too many times this month.

So Grigsby took off his belt and gave the girl what he thought she needed: a
"good whupping."

"She's beyond sassy; she's out of control," said Grigsby, who said he hit
the girl after she called him a number of expletives and threw two coins at
his head. "I bet her parents never gave her a whupping. She needed it."

Grigsby's actions landed him in jail and set off a firestorm of debate in a
community divided by both generational and cultural differences when it
comes to disciplining children.

In a neighborhood that's grown increasingly Haitian, Grigsby's actions
resonate with many people -- immigrants grappling with American views on
corporal punishment and older AfricanAmericans who remember when even their
neighbors could whip them with a switch.

But those who disagree with Grigsby point to his arrest as proof our society
no longer tolerates that kind of behavior.

Grigsby says his troubles with the girl began long before his arrest Dec.
12. Grigsby said the teen, who was not identified by police to protect her
privacy, had shoplifted items, called him names and disregarded numerous
pleas to stop skating inside the market.

But Grigsby, who says he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in the
early '80s, hesitated calling the police for fear of giving the girl the
same black mark he has had to deal with for decades.

The breaking point, he said, was when she gave him too much money for a
60-cent bag of chips.

"You can't count?" he recalls asking.

That's when he said the girl began calling him names, spat at him and threw
the two nickels he returned to her at his head.

"She wanted to stand in the middle of the store and argue with me like a
grownup," Grigsby said. "Somebody's got to step up and say, `You can't act
like that in public.'"

Grigsby, who is African-American, says his parents never spared him the
belt. And he, in turn, never spared it on any of his eight children, who
turned out just fine, he said.

"Nobody's in jail, nobody has a criminal record, nobody got shot. That's
good to me," said Grigsby, who argues that children these days don't respect
adults because society has become too soft on discipline.

But to Dan Kaufman, an attorney representing the Haitian girl in a pending
lawsuit, Grigsby's comments are completely out of line.

"There's not a jury in this country who would support this type of
behavior," Kaufman said. "If he wants to practice that on his own children,
I pray for them, but he certainly can't do that to a child he doesn't even

Grigsby, who is out on $6,500 bail, is charged with misdemeanor battery and
false imprisonment, a felony, for allegedly ordering another young customer
to lock the shop's door and then beating the girl. He will celebrate his
53rd birthday in court at his arraignment Friday.

While he doesn't deny hitting his teenage customer, Grigsby says the door
was never locked -- a distinction that could make a big difference in
Grigsby's sentence if he's convicted.

Grigsby, who is raising two young daughters, worries his fiancée might have
to close Legends Mini-Mart and he will have to send his daughters to live
with relatives in Michigan if he is found guilty of the false imprisonment
charge -- which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

"Just for giving a girl a spanking, I get all this attention," Grigsby said.

Grigsby ran a cab company in Detroit before coming to Miami five years ago
to get away from street violence. He and his fiancée chose the mini-mart
because it was near two schools, which they figured would provide him a
steady customer base.

But the business, only miles from downtown Miami, also came with unexpected
headaches: Children who misbehave and steal items from his store and a
neighborhood that's nearly as violent as the one he left behind.

Still, Grigsby said he got along with most of his young customers and
business was going smoothly until his recent arrest.

A sign posted outside the mini-mart instructs students to dress nicely and
neatly comb their hair if they want to testify on his behalf during his
trial because the case will be aired on Court TV.

The cable network's producers say they have no plans to broadcast Grigsby's

Grigsby just might round up a few students to take the stand for him. Many
children who visit the shop to buy candy or play video games say the man
they call "Pops" is a good, kind man.

"He don't hurt nobody," said Patrick Gillens, a 10th-grader at the high
school nearby. And if he hit the girl, she must have deserved it, Gillens

Even among members of the same family, however, Grigsby's actions are

"She's lucky that's all she got was a whupping with a belt," said Sandy
Joseph, a 23-year-old Haitian-American mother. "I'm sorry but these kids
now, they're rude."

But Joseph's cousin, Nancy Joseph, said she would never hit her two
children, much less someone else's child.

"Kids need to be disciplined, not spanked," she said.

Diana Marrero can be reached at dmarrero@sun-sentinel.com or 305-810-5005.
Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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