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Rev. Manuel Sykes sues elderly widow over traffic accident

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Rev. Manuel Sykes, former president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, filed a lawsuit against an 86-year old widow based on a traffic accident that occurred on November 10, 2015.

Sykes sites “serious bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, expenses of hospitalization, of medical and nursing care and treatment, loss of earnings and ability to earn a living.”

The accident occurred on 54th Avenue South. Sykes was driving a 2012 black Chrysler 200 convertible when Joyce Ann Kater was approaching from the opposite direction and turned left in front of him causing a collision.

Kater was ticketed for failure to yield at the intersection.

However, the lawsuit filed by Skyes is still odd. The police report resulting from the incident indicates that Sykes was traveling just 20 miles per hour. Police also listed Sykes injury severity as “none.” His airbags did not deploy and he was not transported to the hospital.

Police also estimated the damage to his car at just $2,000 indicating minimal damage.

While the evidence does not prove that Sykes exaggerated his report and incidents of delayed injury is not entirely uncommon. But the lawsuit does bring Sykes’ name back into the news.

Sykes, once a prominent Democrat, left the party to become a Republican. He did so after being snuffed by the local party. In 2014 Sykes considered running for the Pinellas Congressional District 13 seat as a Democrat against Republican David Jolly.

Shortly after he was told by then Pinellas County Democratic chair Mark Hanisee he’d be “persona non grata” in the party if he ran. The entire voicemail message was harsh and even mentioned that Sykes should expect a call from Mayor Rick Kriseman telling him to “back off.”

The incident led to Sykes leaving the party and the local party having egg on its face. Democrats failed to pit a candidate against Jolly that cycle.

Sykes continues to be a vocal activist in the area, but does so from a much less political pulpit.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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