Ricardo Vazquez Jr. speaks with his attorney, James Chandler, via WINK News
Ricardo Vazquez Jr. was acquitted by a jury today in Collier County of 4 counts of sexual molestation of two minors. Vazquez had worked at a Naples police officer several years ago. One of the counts could have earned him a life sentence, due to the accuser’s age. However, there was no physical evidence to back up the allegations, only the testimony of the accusers, and there were some inconsistencies in their statements. Vazquez was convicted of 2 lesser counts of misdemeanor battery, and sentenced to time served on those, since he had been in custody since his arrest in 2016. He will be released today, and is not a felon or a sex-offender. Vazquez had denied the charges all along, took the stand in his own defense, and it was demonstrated that the accusers did not like him. The trial started on Monday, closing arguments were yesterday, and they jury took the night off, and came back today to finish their deliberations.
Vazquez was represented by Naples attorneys James Chandler and Elizabeth Humann, who did an excellent job with a tough case. I spoke to Chandler, who said, “It was a great day for the Vazquez family and I am happy that their son and brother is returning home to them. It was a hard fought and emotional trial. Now it is time for Rick to try to return to life. I am extremely proud of our team.” It was a huge win on another big case for Chandler and his firm.
Posted in Criminal Law, Florida, Naples / Collier / Southwest Florida, Police
Tagged battery, collier, james chandler, lewd, naples, npd, ricardo vazquez, sexcrime
The city council yesterday finalized a settlement of nearly a half-a-million dollars for NFL player Nate Allen for his wrongful arrest. (While he was detained, and ultimately released without a formal arrest, it was easily a ‘de facto arrest’ due to time and totality of the circumstances.) It was enough to make the news, especially since he is a professional football player. Even though he was released that day, the suit was worth a lot more because of the demonstrable negative effects it had on his NFL contract situation. Worse, the FMPD chief at the time, Doug Baker, was caught lying in the investigation into the cover-up, leading ultimately to his termination. The entire incident was a black eye on the city. To the council’s credit, they recognized the wrongdoing, and have repeatedly apologized. Neither the chief, nor the detective on the case are still with the city. Sawyer Smith handled the case for Allen, and tells me he is as nice a guy you could ever meet.
Sadly, the lessons are still being learned. Just a few months ago I encountered a case where the FMPD utilized the same faulty show-up procedure to identify someone, in spite of the pending lawsuit. The state ended up dropping the case. Meanwhile, the 2-year anniversary of Zombie-con has passed with no arrests, charges, or even named suspects. And just last week, more details have come out about the officers suspended after the Freeh Report. FMPD has a long way to go…
Posted in 4th Amendment - Search & Seizure, Criminal Law, Federal, Florida, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Police
Tagged badcops, civil rights, doug baker, fmpd, fort myers, freeh, nate allen, sawyer smith, zombie
Daniel Rushing was arrested in 2015 when an officer mistook the glaze from his Krispy Kreme doughnut for Crystal Meth. He bonded out after 10 hours, even though he should not have been locked up at all. He sued the maker of the field test kit, as well as the city, who failed to properly train their officer on how to use the field test. They settled this week for $37,500. That’ll buy Mr. Rushing a lot of doughnuts!
This kind of thing happens more often than you would think. I saw a guy get arrested for patchouli that the officer said tested positive for heroin. A man in Ovideo was recently held for 90 days until a lab test proved that his drywall was not cocaine. He may be seeking an even more substantial lawsuit, that the taxpayers are going to end up footing. And to compound his problems, he may not be able to get the arrest record expunged because he has a prior history, which prohibits expungement under current Florida law.
News of this settlement comes as the City of Fort Myers seeks to finalize a settlement for wrongly arresting football star Nate Allen: which crimcourts will be following closely.
Posted in 4th Amendment - Search & Seizure, 8th Amendment - Bail and Punishment, Criminal Law, Drugs, Florida, Police
Tagged badcops, cocaine, daniel rushing, doughnut, drugs, krispy kreme, nate allen, orlando, oviedo
Yet another inmate has died at Charlotte Correctional Institute. The News-Press reports this is the fifth inmate death this year, several of which are still apparently under investigation. That’s on top of three more last year, and several more in recent years. One of the earlier deaths was ruled a homicide at the hands of the guards, but no charges were brought. This raises yet more questions, still with few answers.
Reports indicate the latest death was a local man, Broderick Campbell, from Fort Myers. He was serving only a 3-year sentence for Burglary and Theft from a conviction last year in Lee County, and DOC records indicate he was a minimum security inmate. His sentencing Scoresheet did not indicate any criminal history other than this charge. He initially was placed on probation, but got violated and ultimately sent to prison where he had less than two years remaining until his release.
For more on the troublesome history, here’s the link to our CCI-tagged posts.
The News-Press published a thorough article detailing the latest corruption concerns at the Fort Myers Police Department. Former FMPD Sergeant Eric Gutridge was fired last week, having been suspended since February. He was fired for lying on official documents and lying under oath during court proceedings. Although lying in court proceedings is perjury, and giving false information in a police report is also a crime, there are no indications that charges are being considered. Gutridge was also accused of planting evidence, but there was not enough evidence to prove that allegation. Gutridge reported, and reiterated, that the 911 caller in a case was unknown, when in fact it was a confidential informant he had worked with before, and approached him for financial compensation for sending the tip.
The city has not released information about other officers that were suspended earlier this year in light of discoveries made by the Freeh group in their review of FMPD. The News-Press and several criminal defendants have been trying to get the City to release additional information regarding police corruption, and the city has spent thousands of dollars on outside attorneys to fight the release of the appendixes of the Freeh Report. The city also appeared in the criminal case to fight the release of the additional pages, and the court has not yet ruled on that. The city may end up being on the hook for a lot more money, as the suspect in the case that led to the Gutridge firing was held incarcerated for about a year and a half before the US attorney’s office dropped the case, and to their credit, reported his misdeeds to city authorities. This comes on the heels of another FMPD officer Detective Donald Weathers, being fired for lying and misusing informants. And there may be residual effects as attorneys review their files and look at other cases in which Weathers and Gutridge may have handled.
The Tampa Bay Times has uncovered an email from an FHP supervisor instructing his troopers to write more tickets. “The patrol wants to see two citations each our…” reads the email from Major Mark Welch. He and FHP deny this is a quota, which would be in violation of state law: but this is a quota. He sets a minimum number of tickets he expects his underlings to write per hour. That’s exactly a quota. The fact that he says “This is not a quota” does not redefine what a quota is.
To make matters worse, there may be benefits tied to the number of tickets officers write. Troopers in Miami-Dade were given additional weekend passes when they met ticket-writing goals earlier this year. FHP ended that policy when it was exposed. It seems this new quota is tied to ‘SOAR’, an overtime program, though that program appears to incentivize them to work more hours, not to inflate their ticket numbers. Big brother is most definitely watching.
This came out a couple days ago, but I haven’t had a chance to write it up. A deputy with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was dismissed after a complaint about excessive force. The internal affairs investigation actually cited him for several things, including not being forthcoming in his report of the incident. He pulled a woman out of her car at gunpoint, while the car was still in gear, and she ended up being dragged along side it for a moment. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
While this isolated incident pales in comparison to the recent wave of suspensions after the city-commissioned audit of Fort Myers PD, it is nonetheless disturbing. The encouraging thing is that we are not talking about a cover, rather that the deputy had consequences for his actions. Sheriff Mike Scott has shown time and again that he will act swiftly to punish misbehavior to protect the reputation of his department, particularly when there is any indication of dishonesty from his team. That’s the first step in building a strong reputation and confidence in the community.
Also troubling is that the woman’s attorney indicated to NBC2’s Jaclyn Bevis that there were not made aware that another witness had come forward, nor that there was an internal affairs investigation on the case. That sort of information is known as “Brady” material: which must be turned over to the defense. The failure to turn that over in discovery is likely a violation, and could result in the conviction being thrown out. The woman involved did get a reduced charge from DUI to reckless driving, which was already probably due to the arresting deputy’s aggressive behavior.
Fox4 has uploaded the raw video: