By Jay Meisel
MARTIN COUNTY - A Stuart man accused of stealing 57 campaign signs told authorities he did not have a political agenda, an arrest affidavit said.
Nicholas Joseph Caputo, 23, 5370 S.E. Marion Way, was arrested Aug. 10 and charged with 57 counts of petit theft.
Authorities discovered he had campaign signs for 18 candidate and multiple signs from one candidate in many cases. In some cases the signs were from multiple candidates in the same race.
A list of the candidates whose signs were in his possession included U.S. Rep. Allen West and Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder, who are opponents in the Republic primary for Congress.
Other candidates included Ed Ciampi and Patrick Hayes, who are running for county commission, William Snyder, a candidate for Martin County sheriff and Laurie Gaylord, a candidate for Martin County superintendent of schools.
When asked about why he had the signs, the affidavit said, "The defendant stated he did not think it was right for the signs to be out because it was littering. I (a deputy) advised the defendant it was not littering and the candidates have the right to place the signs out and after the election they are required to clean them up."
Most of the signs taken were near U.S. 1, the affidavit indicates.
It also indicates it was only by chance that the deputy discovered the missing signs.
The deputy wrote in the affidavit that he was traveling south on U.S. 1 looking for a possible reckless driver and passed a vehicle on the side of the road.
Unable to locate the reckless driver, the deputy started heading north and stopped near the vehicle parked on the side of the roadway, the affidavit said.
The deputy stopped to make a welfare check on the driver and noticed campaign signs in the vehicle, the affidavit said.