Polk sheriff defends spying on minority group - FOX 35 News Orlando

Polk sheriff defends spying on minority group

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LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -

The Polk County Sheriff's Office says it sent undercover deputies to a minority rights group's meeting because it had received information that the group was planning unlawful activities at a rally outside of a local jail.

Sheriff's spokesman Scott Wilder said Friday that deputies had also heard that hundreds of people were planning to attend the 2012 jail demonstration.  Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd sent the deputies to a July 2012 meeting of the Poor and Minority Justice Association, which was held at a local church and open to the public.

News of the spying was revealed this week when the group's leader gave an undercover deputy's email to the news media.  Members of the group say they weren't planning any illegal activities or violence.

Pastor Clayton Cowart, who heads the justice group and the church where the meeting was held, said he feels his group's constitutional rights were violated.

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