BARTOW – A lawyer for a woman accused of throwing cups at workers and causing a riot at a Lakeland McDonald’s is fighting back against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd after a press conference and security camera video went viral.
“Sheriff Grady (Judd) attacked one of my clients. (He) attacked a black woman (and) harmed a minor,” Jeremy McLymont told reporters outside the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow on Friday.
The incident took place a week ago on Thursday (May 19) at a McDonald’s on US 92 near Combee Road. The sheriff’s report says that Jones hit the employee with a plastic sign, then threw several bottles, then walked behind the counter and threw the cups on the floor and at the employees. The entire incident lasted ten minutes before Jones was persuaded to leave.
Jeremy McLymont says that Judd poked fun at his client’s mental illness, calling her “two fries before a happy meal”. McLymont says Tianis Jones, 22, has bipolar disorder and hasn’t taken medication because she’s pregnant. He says she was under stress because of her pregnancy and the support of her family. McLymont called Judd’s comments “unprofessional” and said he would have to start Jones’s defense “ten points behind” because of his comments, which he said would spoil the jury if the case went to trial.
McLymont says that while Sheriff Polk is considered by some to be a “class clown”, he sees Judd as a danger to the judiciary.
McLymont also claims that Judd’s press conference last Friday was untrue. According to McLymont, Jones’ order was not online, but was placed in a drive-thru window. He says that Jones waited 10 to 15 minutes for her order, and the employee brought drinks, but not food, which was for her five-year-old brother. “Her little brother was crying… The workers didn’t give her back the money and didn’t want to give her food. the whole world on her shoulders, taking care of the family, solving problems… at McDonald’s, she snapped. That doesn’t make her a criminal, that makes her human.”
The lawyer also referred to Jones’ 911 call, saying “she didn’t call to complain about the order. She called to complain that they took her money.”
Jones’ lawyer also questioned the intensity of the search and media attention. McLymont claimed to have already contacted the sheriff’s office, setting up a process for Jones to turn himself in when the press conference took place. It was also alleged that the aides told the Jones family that they could not work on any other cases until they found her. “He set up a manhunt for Tyanis Jones for throwing cups at McDonald’s. He (charged her) with a felony in the first degree.”
McLymont also accused Judd of endangering an underage girl because Jones’ 15-year-old sister was in the video. The Jones family says she should not have been shown on television without her consent. Jones’ mother, Clivia Vargas, says people approached family members, played the viral video, and laughed in their faces. “You contacted the wrong family,” Vargas said in a comment addressed to the sheriff.
Jones herself spoke only briefly and mostly about her younger sister being on television. “I want my little sister to be fair because she is underage and whoever showed her on TV without (her parents’) consent is wrong.” Jones also says that the video should not have been released without more information about the story.
Prior to the press conference, Judd held a “prebattle” with expected remarks in response to a reporter’s question about Jones’ mental health and pregnancy. “Doesn’t that sound like McExuse,” Judd said. He said that McLymont “has the opportunity to get a lot of free publicity.” Judd insisted that no potential juror would pay attention to a press conference in a case that would go to court in one to three years. “Our culprit has McLoyer and we’re going to McCourt.”
Photo: Polk Sheriff’s Office/Canva