Judge: ‘You have a choice – your husband or your guns’
Last week, a Florida judge forced Lisa Marok to renounce her Second Amendment rights, give up her Florida Concealed Weapon or Firearm License (CWFL) and remove all firearms and every single round of ammunition from her home, even though she had not been accused of a single crime.
If she failed to comply with the judge's unconstitutional order, her husband could have served 19 months in a state prison. If she complied, her husband would be sentenced to probation and walk out of the courtroom a free man.
"You have a choice," the judge told her. "Your husband or your guns."
"Can I have a minute?" she jokingly asked.
The events that led to Marok's strange dilemma began years ago when her husband Ralph Marok was working for the Florida Department of Transportation.
Ralph Marok, who's now 60, fell off of a DOT truck and injured his back, according to his son Thomas Marok.
Ralph Marok became addicted to pain pills and turned to street drugs after Florida and other states made it more difficult to obtain prescription painkillers, his son explained.
"This is the face of the opiate crisis," Thomas Marok said of this father. "This is not the man who raised me."
On April 6, 2022, at 1:38 a.m., Ralph's addiction reached a crisis point. According to a Charlotte Country Sheriff's Office arrest report, deputies were sent to his home to investigate a "shots fired" call.
Investigators determined that the home across the street had been struck by gunfire. One round went through a glass picture window, and another struck the exterior wall. In addition, the right taillight was shot out of a blue Mercury Montego that was parked at the home. No one was injured.
A total of 19 shell casings were found at the scene, including both .40 and .45 calibers. Officers recovered three handguns of the same calibers.
"Deputy Pero made contact with Ralph Anthony Marok who was highly agitated and in an excited state. Ralph related that he had been fighting several people who were attempting to kill his family. Ralph was cleared by medical personnel and detained as part of the shooting investigation. While being cleared by medical personnel at Fawcett Memorial Hospital, the medical personnel advised Ralph had numerous illegal narcotics in his system, including cocaine," the arrest report states.
Several neighbors identified Ralph Marok as the shooter. One told investigators he went "door to door" with a rifle, adding "there was no one chasing Ralph."
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.
Charlotte County deputies removed all of the firearms from Marok's home, not just the three involved in the shooting. Many of the firearms were antiques and/or collectibles, including a Colt 1911 and a matched pair of .357 Magnum revolvers with consecutive serial numbers.
Five of the firearms belonged to Lisa Marok. Three of them – an SKS, a 1911 and a .357 Magnum revolver – belonged to their son, Thomas.
In 2014, Ralph Marok and his son Gregory were honored by the Charlotte County Fire Department for saving their neighbor's life by entering a home that was fully engulfed in fire and pulling the homeowner to safety.
"My wife was in our backyard, and that's when she saw the lady pounding on the back window and hollering for anybody she could to get over there," Ralph Marok told The Charlotte Sun in 2014. "I ran to the back of my yard and jumped over a fence and went over there and got her out."
Over the years, his addiction changed Marok. Prosecutors seemingly took his addiction into account when they drafted his plea agreement.
They offered a no-jail plea deal, in which Marok 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 last week to accept the 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. "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."
All of the Maroks' firearms remain in the custody of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office.
"I'm scared to go pick them up," Lisa Marok said. "I don't want my husband to go to prison. I think this was wrong. I am a law-abiding citizen."
Circuit Judge Shannon H. McFee heard Marok's case. Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to the bench in 2019 to fill a vacancy.
Judge McFee was not willing to be interviewed for this story. However, he submitted a written statement through his spokesperson, Sara Miles, public information officer for Florida's 20th Judicial Circuit.
Asked why he told Marok's wife she had one choice – her husband or her guns, Judge McFee's response states:
"Mr. Ralph Marok accepted a plea to the charge of Shooting at or within a Dwelling, 2nd Degree Felony in the State of Florida; additionally, this plea calls for Mr. Marok to be registered as a convicted felon. The Assistant State Attorney clearly announced the plea deal to Mr. Marok that included, ‘no longer being allowed to lawfully possess a firearm or ammunition, or a concealed weapon or the ability to vote, etc.' These implications were discussed with Mr. Marok and he voluntarily agreed to these terms with his plea, which is a downward departure based upon the plea bargain agreement between counsel. Mr. Marok scores out to 19.5 months prison. Instead, Mr. Marok received at least 5 years State Probation. The court became aware that Mrs. Marok has a concealed weapons permit and may have weapons stored in the home, which would subject Mr. Marok to a Violation of Probation and potentially going to prison. Judge McFee was taking the necessary time to ensure that Ms. Marok understood the terms of the attorney's negotiated plea and, if she was in objection, then the court would not accept this plea. Mrs. Marok was in agreement with the plea deal and pledged not to have any weapons in the home being shared with Mr. Marok, a convicted felon."
Jacksonville, Florida-based attorney Eric Friday, who specializes in firearms law and Second Amendment rights, said the judge's order went too far.
"Mr. Marok's family has the right to continue to own guns as long as he is not in possession," Friday said.
Thomas Marok, 36, agrees. He recently bought his mother a gun safe, which has only one key, but the safe remains empty.
"She is still afraid to go get them. She doesn't want my dad to go to prison. I'm worried if she waits too long, they might get lost or damaged," he said. "I just want to be there for my dad as much as I can. He's embarrassed. I'm just upset about how he and my mom were treated."
Thomas Marok served as a corpsman in the U.S. Navy. He currently works as an anesthesia technician in the Milwaukee area, and is studying to become a physician's assistant.
"I think the judge was anti-gun," he said. "My mom told me during sentencing that if it were up to him, my dad would have jail time and all the guns would be locked up."
Lee Williams is chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation's Investigative Journalism Project. Republished with permission.