State Attorney Amira Fox, who won election handily to the office vacated by retiring State Attorney Steve Russell, received some good news this afternoon. The Florida Commission on Ethics released a statement about their findings from the hearing on Monday, and found no probable cause regarding the complaint that had been filed against her in 2017, prior to the campaign for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit.
The complaint was filed by a friend of Ms. Fox’s opponent in the race, Chris Crowley. While the Ethics Commission would not confirm that a complaint had been filed, Crowley and his friends discussed it in the media, and tried to use it as a campaign issue. The complaint alleged Ms. Fox had misused her position at the State while running for office, basically claiming she was improperly campaigning during work hours. This ruling should put any concerns to rest, as the Commission finding of no probable cause means there were not sufficient grounds to proceed.
Amira Fox won the Republican primary in the race for State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit. That effectively means she will win the seat. This is a relief for everyone working in the criminal justice system in Southwest Florida, as things tend to run pretty well at the State here, and the kind of wholesale changes her opponent planned could have started chaos in our justice system. Ms. Fox was clearly the best candidate, and has the smarts and experience to do the job well.
I hope that when Ms. Fox takes over, she does look to improve some of the things about the State Attorney’s office: it would be nice to see more consistency from county to county, a reduction in jail time for non-violent crimes, especially misdemeanors like marijuana possession, and being willing to admit when a case is bad. Generally, the office has been pretty well run since Ms. Fox took over as chief assistant, and it probably will continue to be so. Ms. Fox ran a good, honest campaign and did not stoop to the dishonesty and mudslinging of her opponent. Hopefully this will show that races can be won the right way, by the best candidate. I wish her luck.
Crowley: in flagrante delicto
State Attorney Candidate Chris Crowley was arrested and charged with two felonies yesterday. He’s trying to mislead on what that means. Here’s what you need to know:
Crowley committed a crime… two, actually. His offenses were on tape. He has admitted guilt for his crimes. One charge was for holding a raffle: only registered non-profits can hold raffles. The other was for illegally soliciting campaign funds. That’s why Crowley went to jail.
There is no law enforcement corruption here, quite the opposite. The local State Attorney did not handle the case, so there would be no conflict. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) handled the investigation, and the State Attorney’s office for the 10th Judicial Circuit (out of Bartow), handled the prosecution decisions and the negotiations. When Crowley claims corruption, he is lying.
The amount of money does not matter. The crime was not how much money he raised, but that he solicited it and raised it illegally.
It is also irrelevant that he gave the money back. The robber is not exonerated if he gives back the purse when he is caught. This is a mitigating factor, but it does not excuse the fact that he committed two felonies. Nor is it a defense that the illegal raffle was done ‘in good faith.’ It is the duty of the candidate to follow the campaign laws.
Crowley says “Amira Fox had me arrested.” That is also a lie. He was arrested because he committed felonies. The office that Ms. Fox works for, the State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit, did not handle the case. Crowley has provided zero evidence that Ms. Fox had anything to do with his arrest. Crowley says he wants to be tough on crime, but he does not want to be truthful about his own crime that put him in jail today.
Finally, the case has not already been ‘effectively dismissed’ with just a fine. Crowley has signed a pretrial diversion contract. That means that when he completes certain requirements, the charges will be dropped… but it hasn’t happened yet. He likely will be supervised by the State Probation department for at least six months, in addition to fines and other financial obligations. This is a common resolution for a first time offender. It does not suggest that the charges are not appropriate, but that Crowley is getting a break since he doesn’t have any history. He’s lucky that the 10th Circuit prosecutors did not try to make a “tough on crime” example out of him.
- Crowley was fired for poor performance at the State Attorney’s Office.
- Crowley was also asked to resign from the Statewide Prosecutor’s Office when he lost the confidence of law enforcement.
- Now Crowley is running to lead the State Attorney’s Office.
The Naples Daily news and News-Press have obtained public record information about State Attorney Candidate Chris Crowley from his time at that agency, and at the Statewide Prosecutor’s office, and the records do not paint a good picture. Crowley was asked to leave Statewide after numerous complaints, including concerns from experienced detectives about his competence on the job. Office head George Richards, who is now a circuit judge, expressed concern to his supervisor in Tampa that Crowley’s poor performance on the job would harm the office’s good working relationship with local law enforcement. He said the general consensus among law enforcement was that “Crowley did not inspire a lot of confidence as a prosecutor.”
The paper also obtained documents from his personnel file from his days working for current State Attorney Stephen Russell. According to a note in his personnel file, he was dismissed for poor performance. Another website has anonymously published additional information purporting to be from Crowley’s personnel file that his supervisor found that his trial preparation was poor, his understanding of the law deficient, even in the specific area he was assigned, and that he was difficult to work with, prior to his being let go for failing to meet the expectation and standards of the office for an attorney of his tenure.
Crowley selling raffle tickets
The “This is Chris” website, was anonymously published, but Patrick Riley’s reporting has verified much of it. Further, the court documentation referred to is verifiable, and the other documents appear to be legitimate copies from public record inquiries. There growing line of serious questions about Crowley’s competence as a prosecutor. The new complaints follow the concerns about his judgment that we have previously covered, when he may have committed a felony and campaign violations at a fund raiser. These are all red flags that indicate Crowley is not a good candidate to be the top law enforcement officer for Southwest Florida.
Hot on the heels of yesterday’s news of longtime SAO employee Warren Hamilton being arrested for 20 counts of possession of child pornography, a Cape Coral police officer has been arrested for sexual activity with a minor 16 or 17 years old. Officer Casey Ortiz, who got in trouble a few years ago in the raise for educational credits he never completed scandal (there were several Cape officers involved in that scandal a few years ago), allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-0ld.
First: I used to work at the SAO, and knew Mr. Hamilton, and am shocked, as are other employees I’ve talked to. Obviously nobody there had any idea. The State has already announced that they will ask the governor to appoint a prosecutor from another circuit to handle the prosecution. The SAO has already moved to terminate his eomployment. This should not affect any prosecutions handled by the office.
Secondly: the correct charge is Unlawful Sexual Activity with Minor, a second degree felony and one that could subject the accused to sex-offender sanctions… and up to 15 years in prison. I don’t know why LCSO has the charge listed as a sexual assault, it’s a different section of the statutes.
Both individuals are innocent until proven guilty.