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Offline Nikki

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« on: September 13, 2007, 12:49:34 PM »
Originally Posted - November 17, 2006


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Mel Sembler's Penis Pump, Privacy Claim Headed To Trial

"PUMP. Used, one of a kind. White in color, formerly owned by U.S. Ambassador to Italy"

That classified ad appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on May 3, 2003, under the "Antiques and Collectibles" section.

Penis pumps aren't used only by former Oklahoma judge Donald Thompson, convicted for using a penis pump and exposing himself while he was presiding over murder trials.

The devices are used as sex toys and for organ enhancement, to treat erectile dysfunction.

The courts have ruled that individuals have no privacy claims to garbage left at curbs for pickup.

 When a Tampa man rummaged through the garbage of shopping center magnate Mel Sembler, high profile GOP fund raiser and foreign ambassador, he found a penis pump, allegedly belonging to Sembler who claimed it had been prescribed for him as a victim of prostate cancer. Sembler's attorneys demanded that the man return the penis pump and other items he had found in the Semblers' trash.

Sembler and his wife, Betty, founded Straight Inc., an adolescent drug program, and SEED in 1976, now known as the Drug Free America Foundation Inc.. Straight successfully sued the state of Florida giving parents the right to force their children into drug rehabilitation without a court order.

But Straight program participants claimed that they were abused or held against their will, subjected to brainwashing techniques. In July, 1993, former participant and employee Richard Bradbury filed a complaint against Straight and Sembler which prompted a state audit by Florida's Inspector General that found "a propensity for abuse or excessive force to be used" at the drug treatment program. Straight ceased business in 1993.

Bradbury was allegedly molested by a fireman when he was 11 years old. He says the abuse continued for three years and that he was also molested by a high school principal and by friends of the fireman. His parents later entered him into the Straight program. He says he wasn't on drugs and was even further sexually abused, beaten and brainwashed while in the drug treatment program run by the Semblers.

And he's focused on the Semblers since then, blaming them for his abuse and the abuse of other Straight victims.

Sembler, a multi-millionaire developer pf shopping centers, served as U.S. ambassador to Australia under President George Bush, served as finance chairman for the Republican National Committee from 1997 to 2000 and in November, 2001, he was appointed ambassador to Italy by President George W. Bush.

Betty Sembler was the finance co-chairperson for Gov. Jeb Bush's election campaign.

Sembler's son, Brett Sembler, served as finance chairman for Attorney General Charlie Crist in Crist's gubernatorial campaign. Brett Sembler had been a fraternity brother of Crist's at Florida State University. Crist's father, Dr. Charles Crist Sr., was a member of the advisory board of Mel Sembler's SEED.

After Bradbury's ad for Sembler's penis pump appeared in the St. Petersburg Times, attorneys for Sembler demanded that Bradbury stop the ad and return the items he had taken.

They claim that Bradbury demanded $700,000 which they refused to pay.

So, Bradbury advertised the pump on eBay later in 2003, with a price tag of $300,000.

Using the letter from Sembler's attorneys as verification that the penis pump belonged to Sembler, Bradbury's eBay offer read "Pump, one of a kind formerly owned by current United States Ambassador to Italy, who also happens to be the founder of Straight Inc. I am a victim of child exploitation, abuse and fraud by the Ambassador's organization, Straight".

Bradbury, now 41, said that he was offering the device for sale to help defray his medical expenses he says are the result of abuse he suffered while at Straight. He said he would donate 25% of the sale price to "three nonprofit organizations which provide services to the thousands of victims of Straight". He said he also did it to bring attention to Straight survivors.

The Semblers didn't see it that way though. They said that Bradbury had done it to embarrass and humiliate them. Sembler says that the penis pump had been prescribed for him by his doctor as part of his treatment for prostate cancer. Sembler underwent surgery for prostate cancer in 1990.

The Semblers' response was to sue Bradbury in 2004 for intentional infliction of emotional abuse and violation of privacy for publishing a private fact. The case, now known as "Pumpgate" is dragging through the courts.

Semblers' attorneys obtained a temporary injunction forcing Bradbury to remove the pump from EBay, return the device to Sembler and an order keeping Bradbury away from their home and garbage.

In 1988, Bradbury and another person had allegedly burglarized Straight's office, reportedly looking for documents and records that they wanted to submit to the state to prove their allegations of the alleged abuse ongoing by counselors in the drug treatment program. He got five years of probation for burglary and was ordered to stay away from the Semblers.

That same year, Sembler donated more than $100,000 to former President George Bush's election campaign and in 1989, Bush appointed him ambassador to Australia.

Florida resident Wes Fager has extensively covered the lawsuit on his website, Fager says his son was among those who were abused while in Straight. He says "the story isn't about a man's penis pump, it's about child abuse".

Bradbury has unsuccessfully tried to have the Sembler lawsuit dismissed, arguing that it's a First Amendment case and that there is no right to privacy in garbage.

Sembler has offered to drop his legal action if Bradbury stays away from him and his residence but Bradbury has refused. He wants his day in court. He says he's not backing down.

Although the court has ordered Bradbury to return the penis pump to Sembler, he says he doesn't know where it is, that he had given all of his Sembler materials to a guy named Ken in Michigan and that he hasn't be able to contact him. Bradbury was deposed in the lawsuit on Dec. 7, 2004 but the deposition wasn't completed because Bradbury checked into a counseling center where a psychologist said that Bradbury suffered from paranoia and post-traumatic stress syndrome triggered by his abuse at Straight.

He underwent an additional eight months of counseling and finished his deposition in September 2005. About two months ago, Sembler completed his deposition.

The trial is scheduled for February and Semblers are now seeking to have Bradbury found in contempt of court for failing to comply with the court order to return Sembler's penis pump to him which had been discarded in the trash. 11-17-06
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