Tag Archives: fdle

Details Released in Arrest of FMPD Captain – the Case Still Looks Like Garbage

Capt. Jay Rodriguez

The affidavit for the warrant in the arrest of FMPD Captain Jay Rodriguez has been released, and as we anticipated in the detailed post about the charges yesterday, it doesn’t look like the charges are legally sustainable. As expected, the Misconduct and Prostitution Charges both stem from actions that happened in 2013, several years beyond the statute of limitations.* One newly revealed detail is that the investigating Detective not only accuses Rodriguez of misconduct for being involved in a false report, but also for improperly receiving a benefit with city money for the alleged sexual act. That allegation might sound good, except that he was working in an undercover capacity for the city police department, and his acts led to two arrests. That is still not a prosecutable case. It definitely would have been better practice for Rodriguez to have stopped the suspect before actually receiving a sexual act, but that does not make his action criminal. In fact, it sends a bad message that if the City gets pissed at its cops, it’s going to try to prosecute them for doing their job.

As to the perjury charge, it appears the questions posed to Rodriguez were a little clearer than indicated in the earlier press release. Rodriguez was asked “were you ever involved in sex while on duty” and “have you ever engaged in sexual activity on duty with a sex worker or prostitute”, which Rodriguez denied. These questions are not as vague as “did you have sex”, but they are not so specific that there is not ambiguity. Definitely hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. More importantly, this confirms it was an internal affairs investigation, which does not appear to be an “official proceeding” to satisfy the required element of the perjury statute.

Captain Rodriguez may have been involved in wrongdoing, especially if he directed the fabricated statements that led to the arrests of the two individuals. Ultimately, charges were apparently dropped against both of them. However, these charges, under more detailed scrutiny, still look like garbage. If Detective Kendall Bores, who swore out this warrant, does not have a better understanding of the law, that Detective should be reviewed for incompetence. And even if the Detective didn’t catch the problems, it should have gone through the State Attorney’s office (of the 12th Circuit) for review before the warrant was sworn out. But caution gets thrown to the wayside when political pressure gets applied on a high-profile media case.

Also, NBC-2 spoke to another attorney who agrees that the old charges may be barred by the statute of limitations.

Here’s a link to yesterday’s even more detailed post as to why these charges are garbage. To reiterate, police misconduct, and especially lying or falsifying police reports, deleting evidence and the like are extremely bad… but that’s not what Rodriguez is being charged with. As it is, these charges are, in my humble legal opinion, bullcrap, and I call it like I see it.

*Update, the News-Press points out the charges may fit an exception to the statute of limitations, as the accused is a public employee. The charges are still crap, however. They have also posted the full affidavit for the warrant.

FMPD Captain Arrested, but the Charges may be Fatally Flawed

jay rodriguez

Capt. Jay Rodriguez

So often, the cover up is worse than the crime. That’s the case here, as FMPD Captain Jay Rodriguez is charged with perjury and falsifying a document – two felonies – to cover up for soliciting prostitution, which is only a second degree misdemeanor. However, these charges may not pass muster when we get a chance to look at them. The arrest affidavits are not publicly available yet, so information is limited to the press release and related media coverage. 

The charges apparently date to an undercover sting operation in which Capt. Rodriguez was involved all the way back in March, 2013. He supposedly received a sex act and then authored a falsified account of his actions. This appears to be the basis of the prostitution and falsifying document charges. However, it appears that these charges are outside of the statute of limitations, which would prevent him from being prosecuted. The statute of limitations for a felony, such as falsifying a document, is generally three years while it’s only one year for a second degree misdemeanor. So, prosecution for these charges is more than three years too late!

I contacted FDLE to see if they had any comment about the statute of limitations, but they say the State Attorney makes the filing decisions. These cases are being handled by the 12th Circuit State Attorney, not our local prosecutors.

Further, it’s highly unlikely that Rodriguez could be prosecuted for receiving a sex act during an undercover operation. He was operating in his capacity as a police officer at the time, and that is a defense to criminal charges. For comparison, if an undercover officer buy drugs from a drug dealer during an undercover operation, the officer cannot be charged with buying the drugs. It may be unpleasant, but officers are given leeway under the law in these circumstances. The better practice is assuredly to make the bust before the actual sex act, once an agreement is in place, as indicated by the professor in this article. However, the officer is not prosecutable for his violation of the law. There have been several undercover operations locally where a sex act unfortunately took place, but those officers are not facing charges.

Even worse, the timing of this arrest makes these charges look politically motivated. Just 10 days ago, the News-Press ran an article about officers who have been on paid leave for a long time, prompting city councilmen in the article to say that they wanted to see some action. I cannot demonstrate that the FDLE was moved by political and media pressure, but here we are less than two weeks later with questionable charges. Now the city will likely commence termination proceedings. They got what they were looking for to try to stop paying Rodriguez.

The final charge appears to be perjury for lying in the internal investigation. FDLE indicates that Captain Rodriguez denied having “sex” while on duty. Even if the state can prove that a sexual act occurred (the alleged act was not on the video), they will have a hard time proving that he was committing perjury when he said he didn’t have sex on duty. The most common usage of “sex” would refer to sexual intercourse, and unless there was some better specificity in the interview… it’s not perjury. Further, an interview given in an internal investigation is almost certainly not an “Official Proceeding” as defined by the statute. Perjury usually means lying in court or to in some sort of formal hearing, not simply in a police interview. There is a separate misdemeanor charge for giving a false statement to a police officer, but unless there were some really specific questions being asked about the nature of the sexual activity, even that allegation would be difficult to prove. This charge is also unlikely to be provable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Another questionable issue related to these charges is that WINK news published what appears to be a mug shot of Captain Rodriguez. What’s interesting about that is that Florida Statute prohibits the release of mug shots of law enforcement officers. WINK is not in the wrong for publishing it, but the question is where did they get it? Was his mug shot illegally provided to the media? At this point, these charges, and the way they are carried out, create more questions than answers. I am electing not to republish the mug shot in this article, not so much because of the prohibition on dissemination, rather because I think the charges are bogus and have decided to only publish the professional photo that has previously been widely distributed.

Finally, these charges, and the likelihood they get dismissed, will end up serving as a cover for what should be the biggest scandal related to this whole thing. A Fort Myers police captain has been accused of lying, falsifying reports, instructing other officers to assist in his cover up, and possibly deleting video evidence of a criminal investigation. That is the issue we should be most concerned about, especially in light of the ongoing corruption probes at FMPD going back several years. While Captain Rodriguez shouldn’t be jailed for lying and saying he kept his bottoms on since it’s outside the statute of limitations, we should be terribly concerned that the department covered for his lie for six years. That’s a big lie, and if someone was charged with criminal acts, lying about it is far more serious for the effect it may have had on the integrity of our criminal justice system.

Here’s an edit of the video in question, from the News-press.

*UPDATE* NBC-2 reports he has been put on unpaid leave. I don’t blame Chief Diggs under the circumstances, but it shows that the arrest helped the City with their public pressure to take action.

Did a State Attorney Candidate Break the Law at his Fundraising Event? (On video)

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Candidate Christopher Crowley selling raffle tickets, via Facebook

One of the candidates for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit has been accused of breaking the law at a recent fundraising event. At the campaign event, of which Crowley posted video footage on his campaign Facebook page, Crowley can be seen promoting a “50/50” raffle (like a split the pot), for which tickets are being sold. He specifically states the tickets are to raise money for the campaign. This is problematic for several reasons.

The first problem is with doing any raffle or other lottery-type promotion… it’s illegal under most circumstances (Fla. Stat. Sec. 849.09). There is an exception for registered non-profit organizations: a 501(c) is allowed to do a raffle if they follow state law. That’s why you frequently see them at sporting events; the Red Sox, Twins, or whoever, does the event through their charitable foundation, which is permissible under state law. However, an election campaign is not one of those exceptions, and a raffle would qualify as a lottery, which is a third degree felony under Florida law. It may have been inadvertent, but this is a big problem for Mr. Crowley, contrary to his protestations that the complaint is a political stunt.

The second problem is that it runs afoul of campaign finance regulations. As NBC-2 points out, it’s clear on page 69 of the candidate handbook that raffles are not appropriate, and the handbook then specifically refers to the lottery statute, Sec. 849.09. Another reason for that is that all contributions must be identified, recorded, and reported under Florida law. That’s such a basic tenet of state campaign rules that it is disappointing that Mr. Crowley would be oblivious to it. He indicates that he called the ethics line and returned the money to the event organizer without depositing it. That’s a good remedial step, but it does not undo the initial error. Crowley has already been fined several times for late treasurer reports for his campaign, as well.

Crowley says to NBC that the complaint is a stunt by his opposition. It’s not. Steve Russell, the outgoing State Attorney, didn’t run out an file charges against Crowley, which he probably would be entitled to do. Instead, he referred it to FDLE, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to conduct an independent investigation, and recused himself, as he should have. Crowley is incorrect that he can botch things up and try to pawn it off as fake news. This mistake is real, and it is serious, and Crowley posted the video of himself advertising the 50/50 raffle.

Further, Crowley tries to counter by touting an ethics complaint filed by his friend against Ms. Fox. He keeps saying she is under investigation… but NBC found a letter from the FEC indicating that the complaint they received was legally insufficient, and that the case was closed. It is a political stunt to get your friend to file an unsupported ethics complaint, and then to KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT, even if nothing has come from the investigation. This raises serious issues regarding Mr. Crowley’s lack of trustworthiness. On the other hand, kudos to Ms. Fox for taking the high road and declining to discuss the allegations against her opponent, which are much more serious.

I don’t think felony charges are appropriate for what appears to be an inadvertent, and relatively minor, campaign violation for which he returned the money. For now, it is up to FDLE to conduct their investigation. I am a lot more concerned about what this says about the judgment of the person running to be the highest law enforcement officer in Southwest Florida.

Below is the NBC video, but check out the full online story here, and also be sure to check out the News-Press article, which includes the full letters from Steve Russell.

Still Another Inmate Died at Charlotte Correctional Institute

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.

ID Photo

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.

Inmates Are Still Dying at Charlotte County Prison

ID Photo

Antonio Kirkland

A spate of troublesome deaths has continued this year at Charlotte Correctional Institute. Most recently, it was just revealed that inmate Antonio Kirkland was reported dead on July 10, 2017. The report was released Thursday, with no details on how he died. News-Press reporter Melissa Montoya was able to extract a telling quote from FDLE spokesperson Jessica Cary, who pointedly stated, “We don’t normally investigate deaths of natural causes.” Kirkland was serving life in prison for armed robbery, in addition to attempted murder and other charges in Pinellas.

ID Photo

Cesar Ruano

Kirkland’s death is the second to be investigated this year at CCI. In May, a 37-year-old inmate named Cesar Ruano, a.k.a. “El Diablo”, was found dead, and no information was released to date. Ruano was serving life in prison for a first-degree murder out of Miami-Dade. The News-Press article indicates there was an investigation for this death, and as Ms. Cary pointed out, they don’t usually investigate deaths of natural causes. While FDLE and DOC have not released any information, a person claiming to be Ruano’s brother commented on a Facebook post, claiming that he died in solitary confinement, crying for help.

There was another inmate death earlier this year, making Kirkland’s at least the third at CCI this year. 48-year-old Michael Diffenderfer passed away suddenly in April at CCI. He had been serving consecutive life sentences for murder and armed robbery from Palm Beach. The cause of death in his case has been reported to be natural: pulmonary embolism as a result of deep vein thrombosis. That’s according to Diffenderfer’s ex-wife… FDLE did not publicly release any information regarding that death either. We don’t have any suggestion that his death was suspicious, but no official word from FDLE, either.

The News-Press says that FDLE is still investigating three deaths from last year (2016), and another from 2015. Including the two from the last couple months, that’s six troublesome cases that are apparently still under investigation. That doesn’t include the 2014 death of Matthew Walker, who’s death was determined to be a homicide at the hands of correctional officers, but for which the State failed to secure an indictment, due in part to a botched investigation and/or cover-up. That means more than 10 criminal probes in the last few years. Coverage of that case, and others, garnered at Pulitzer Prize for the Charlotte Sun. But even their award-winning writing has not led to answers for the ongoing spate of inmate deaths. Nor has it brought an end to the growing body-count piling up at Charlotte Correctional Institute.

More coverage of Charlotte Correctional Institute is worth reading

Governor Rick Scott wants to Raise Law Enforcement Pay

Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott

Governor Rick Scott announced this week that he is seeking a budget allocation to increase the pay of correctional officers and probation officers. These officers are surprisingly underpaid, starting at under $30,000, which has made it difficult to fill positions and retain officers. The State doesn’t even provide a firearm to probation officers that have to go out in the field to visit felons.

A few weeks ago he also announced that he is seeking a raise for state law enforcement officers, including FHP troopers, as well as FDLE, FWC and other agencies. The requested raise is modest, but probably overdue. I was speaking to some officers in court recently, and was surprised to see troopers leaving FHP to work in local departments, but the financial incentive was just too great. Fair pay is essential for maintaining the quality of our law enforcement officers.

The pay raises will still have to be discussed during the upcoming budget negotiations, and are far from a done deal. Not only is there concern of a deficit, Governor Scott is hoping to cut the budget by over $600 million. Some tough decisions will have to be made, but the law enforcement and corrections raises need to come sooner than later.

Child Sex Investigator Arrested for Child Sex Offenses

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Charles “Chuck” McMullen via WEAR TV

Holy Crap, Charles “Chuck” McMullen, who had been a supervisor of the FDLE cyber-crimes unit for several years, has been arrested for exactly the type of activity he had been policing all these years. As a supervisor with the unit, he would literally travel the state setting up and running the internet sting operation in cooperation with various law enforcement agencies. He has now been charged with sexual assault and lewd and lascivious behavior on victims less than twelve. The victims indicate it happened on multiple occasions, so he could end up with multiple charges. The accusers were only 8, and sexual assault on a minor under 12 is a capital felony that has a mandatory sentence of life in prison, if he is convicted of that charge. He apparently was working at centers that advocate for abused children, allegedly using his position there to access his victims.

I have previously written about how sting operations run the risk of entrapping people. Sex offender stings in particular run this risk, and have been shown to do so locally. I have also pointed out some of the dirty tricks these operations use to set up the targets in these operations. Here’s the thing… Chuck McMullen is literally the guy who was doing this.

Special Agent Chuck McMullen organized, supervised, and actively participated in these operations. He ran operations where people were wrongly prosecuted, and he personally used improper techniques that constituted entrapment. Chuck McMullen wrongfully prosecuted people for travelling to meet minors, and now is facing charges for actually having abused young children. It’s shocking, appalling, and troubling on many levels. If it is demonstrated he committed these offenses, it is all the worse for his hypocrisy.

The image above is from file footage from WEARTV