Tag Archives: sawyer smith

Fort Myers Pays Nate Allen $440,000 for Wrongful Arrest

nate allen

Nate Allen

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…

FMPD Internal Investigation Completed

Nate Allen

Nate Allen

The Fort Myers Police Department has completed an internal investigation regarding the mistaken arrest of NFL player Nate Allen several months ago. They found that errors were made by the officers investigating, which led to him being improperly detained. Sanctions have been levied by FMPD, including suspensions for a couple of officers involved in the investigation.

Allen’s attorney Sawyer Smith will respond to the announcement with a press conference tomorrow at 10 a.m. Smith has long been calling for an outside investigation into the incident, and the City Council discussed the possibility some time ago, but deferred to hear the result of the FMPD investigation.

Previous coverage of the Nate Allen case on crimcourts: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/tag/nate-allen/

An External Review Is a Win-Win to Review the Nate Allen Fiasco

FMPD is confident that an internal audit will be sufficient to review the errors that led to Nate Allen being wrongfully detained for more than five hours. However, Allen and his attorneys at the Wilbur Smith Law Firm are asking the city to bring in an outside agency, such as the FBI or FDLE (The Florida Department of Law Enforcement). Here’s the thing… EVERYBODY ought to be on board with an outside review. Transparency is good for everybody.

The City of Fort Myers should want an outside review. If the review is conducted by an independent agency, and finds no wrongdoing or cover-up, then the public will have confidence in that result. On the contrary, if there was wrongdoing, egregious errors, or a cover-up, then we all want to know about it. If there is a problem, it’s a good thing if the outside agency roots it out, so the problem can be fixed, and it doesn’t happen again. The City, and its citizens, all stand to benefit from an outside review. I encourage the city to bring in an outside agency, and release all the related documents.

Further, I would recommend that there be a review of the FMPD policy. If the policy still encourages a suggestive, one-person procedure, it should be updated. The State Attorney’s Office already pointed out that an unduly suggestive procedure was used to mis-identify Nate Allen. Steps should be taken to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Scientific studies and best practices recommend the following:

  • train all law enforcement officers in eyewitness identification
  • conduct lineups and photo arrays blindly
  • establish standardized witness instructions
  • immediately ask the witness about his or her level of confidence in the identification
  • videotape the entire eyewitness identification procedure

More information about best practices can be found on the DOJ’s “COPS” Community Policing Dispatch. Check out the article from December, “When it Comes to Eyewitness ID Best Practices, the Science is Settled.”

The law is also settled:

“Given the potential for misidentification if suggestive procedures are employed, courts have recognized that “[t]he practice of showing suspects singly to persons for the purpose of identification, and not as part of a lineup, has been widely condemned.”Stovall v. Denno, 388 U.S. 293, 302, 87 S.Ct. 1967, 1972, 18 L.Ed.2d 1199 (1967); Perez v. State, 648 So.2d 715, 719 (Fla.1995); Blanco v. State, 452 So.2d 520, 524 (Fla.1984),cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1181, 105 S.Ct. 940, 83 L.Ed.2d 953 (1985)” Macias v. State, 673 So.2d 176 (Fla. 4th DCA 1196).

More on Nate Allen on Fox 4 News Tonight

I gave them a few comments, reiterating that I think an outside review is a good idea, and how surprised I was that FMPD is still using 1-person show ups. We’ll see if I made the story!

UPDATE: Excellent, the included a quote: ” The courts have made it clear that the preferred way to do an identification is to do an array, either a lineup, or a photo array with multiple pictures, that way you’re not suggesting an outcome to the witness.” I’ll have a more thorough post on it tomorrow.

Screen Cap from Fox4 10 pm

Screen Cap from Fox4 10 pm

What FMPD is not Doing About the Nate Allen Fiasco

FMPD has indicated they will do an audit or internal review of their practices in the wake of the wrongful detention of Nate Allen. Allen and his lawyers have called for an outside investigation into the situation, which Fort Myers does not seem inclined to do.

How do you know that the internal audit won’t find any wrongdoing? When the police chief has already said that the officers didn’t do anything wrong, as he told WINK News. [Ed. the story in this link has been amended since we first published this article.] He wouldn’t go on camera to say that. So, the boss has already prejudged the situation before his own department conducts their review. What are the chances that his employees contradict him on the situation.

More troubling, is that the State Attorney’s Office has already determined that FMPD used a bad procedure in the case. Their poor technique basically framed Allen. What’s more, they have made it more difficult to catch and prosecute the actual criminal who committed the act. It appears they violated their own policy by using the suggestive technique.

There should be a change to the policy to discourage any one-person show (including 1 person photo identification). The court have ruled clearly and repeatedly that such procedures are unduly suggestive, and will often lead to exclusion of the identification in court. The FMPD policy should follow the law.

Crimcourts joins Nate Allen and his attorney, Sawyer Smith, and city council Candidates Barnes and Sims in calling for an outside review of this incident, and the related FMPD policies regarding identification procedures.