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16 Sep 2013

Indian River County Criminal Attorney Gets Charges Dropped

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Lonely Heart’s Club – Sister Accuses Her Own Mother and Brother of
False Imprisonment and Battery – All Charges Dropped After Year of Intense Litigation –
Detective Poses as Pseudo-Psychologist

Adrian Antoon and his mother, Giselle (not their real names), were arrested in Indian River County in August, 2012, on charges of false imprisonment and battery – against their own sister/daughter. IRCSO Detective “Z” (not his real initial) concocted a bizarre theory of mind control and depression. The Detective supposed that Adrian and his mother “forced” 26-year-old Alexa (not her real name) to buy a house, and to work two jobs to support the family. The Detective believed that Alexa was handcuffed and beaten, and had nearly all of her hair cut off, to prevent her from moving out and from dating. The Detective supposed that Adrian and Giselle feared that “dating” would allow Alexa too much independence, thereby threatening the family’s financial gravy train.

Indian River County Criminal Attorney Jeffrey Garland

The problem for the pseudo-psychologist Detective was that the facts did not support his bizarre theory. Still, the Detective invoked the powers of the State in an attempt to grind down Adrian (23 years old), Giselle and a 17-year-old brother, Mark (not his real name). The Detective would cause Adrian and Giselle to be arrested with threats of imprisonment – even though neither had any criminal history. Det. Z further “sicced” the Department of Children and Families (DCF) on the family on the theory that Mark was being abused or neglected by Adrian and Giselle. The Detective’s suppositions were based upon an incomprehensible and indefensible interpretation of “facts” obtained from Alexa. The Detective would subsequently fail to advise the court that the information provided by Alexa was contradictory, and that the conclusions were preposterous. This sordid affair began with a report by Alexa that something had happened. She went to the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office (IRCSO) on May 16, 2012. She gave a detailed statement to Det. Paavo Minuse. Thankfully, that statement was video recorded. During the course of the recording, Det. Minuse can be seen carefully examining Alexa for signs of injury. He states that he does not see any injuries which would support Alexa’s story.

Alexa returned to the IRCSO’s Detective Bureau the following day. At that time, she was reinterviewed by the IRCSO’s staff pseudo-psychologist, Det. Z. During the second interview, Alexa told Det. Z about terrible abuse that had occurred just two weeks before. Alexa explained that her mother and brother were unhappy that she was dating and attending a program which would allow her to become a registered nurse. Alexa claimed that she was handcuffed to a bed, and battered, from Friday night until the following Monday afternoon. She said the abuse occurred two weeks earlier, and that she moved out of the house on May 9, 2012. At the end of the interview, Det. Z arranged for a crime scene technician to come take numerous close-up photographs of injuries which Alexa said she sustained as a result of the abuse.
The case would later be dropped after the defense demanded production of the close-up photographs which were taken by the crime scene technician on May 17, 2012. These photographs did, in fact, appear to show signs of injury. However, these signs of injuries were not present the previous day when Alexa had been interviewed by Det. Minuse.

The pseudo-psychologist Detective applied for a search warrant on May 21, 2012. Det. Z failed to note in the search warrant application that Det. Minuse had observed no injury on May 16, although Det. Z observed signs of injury the following day. The search warrant was executed on the family’s residence on May 24, 2012. The search warrant team seized numerous items, none of which would support the prosecution. Later on, after all criminal charges were dropped, and after the DCF proceeding was dismissed, all of the evidence would be returned to Adrian and Giselle.

An unidentified person called in a complaint to DCF on the “hot line”. The law protects the identity of such callers. As a result, the defense could never determine who made the initial complaint. As a result of this complaint, DCF Investigator Michael Worrell met with Alexa on May 7, 2012. The pseudo-psychologist Detective never bothered to meet with Inv. Worrell or to review his reports. If he had done so, the pseudo-psychologist Detective would have found that Inv. Worrell carefully examined Alexa for signs of injury during the May 7, 2012 interview. Inv. Worrell observed no such injuries; and Alexa denied ever being abused by her family. The absence of injuries on May 7 both rebutted the anonymous call to the DCF hotline; and refuted Alexa’s complaint to Det. Z that she had been beat up two weeks earlier.

May 7 fell on a Tuesday. Alexa moved out on Thursday, May 9. The only possible weekend to fit Alexa’s “claims” was the last weekend of April. This means that Inv. Worrell should have seen evidence of injury – if there had been any! The DCF proceeding was dismissed, in part, upon the wholesale lack of evidence to support the bizarre claims being asserted by Alexa. DCF interviewed Mark, who was allegedly present during the claimed events. Mark advised the DCF investigators that no such incidents ever took place.

The pseudo-psychologist Detective was not detoured by the lack of evidence uncovered during the search warrant or the lack of other evidence to support Alexa’s bizarre claims. Det. Z chose to ignore the fact that Alexa apparently “developed injuries” during the 24-hour period after being initially interviewed by Det. Minuse – when no injuries were observed. Det. Z chose to ignore the fact that Alexa, by her own account, had no contact with her mother or brother since moving out of the house on May 9, 2012. Det. Z did apparently learn that Alexa worked on the weekend of Friday, April 27 – Monday, April 30. Det. Z realized that evidence of Alexa’s employment during the last weekend of April would put the kabash on her claim to have been falsely imprisoned then. The pseudo-psychologist supposed, therefore, that the alleged abuse had “really” happened the previous weekend of Friday, April 20 – Monday, April 23. The pseudo-psychologist Detective initiated the arrests based upon this hypothesis and persuaded Assistant State Attorney William Long to file a formal information on the basis of the theory. It should be noted that Alexa never claimed that the incident occurred April 20 – 23. Indeed, during her deposition, Alexa reiterated that the incident occurred April 27 – 30.

As part of the investigation, the pseudo-psychologist Detective interviewed a woman who attended nursing classes with Alexa. This friend claimed to have seen Alexa on May 2 – at which time she was supposedly sporting two black eyes, a ligature mark on her neck, swollen wrists and red marks on her cheeks. Det. Z’s decision to move the offense back a weekend ignored this witness’s sworn statement which asserted that the injuries were observed on May 2, but these terrible injuries were not seen by any other witness.

After being arrested, Adrian retained Attorney Jeffrey H. Garland; and Giselle retained Attorney Thomas R. Garland. Both attorneys got to work immediately by collecting as much evidence as possible.
After receiving copies of the discovery materials from the State, which included the recorded interviews, Attorneys Garland immediately identified the time discrepancies noted already in this article. Attorneys Garland then obtained a copy of the DCF investigation, which contained Inv. Worrell’s observations on May 7 of no injury to Alexa.

Attorneys Garland conducted multiple depositions of witnesses. Most importantly, Alexa asserted in her deposition that the events happened on April 27 – 30. Alexa’s girlfriend from the nursing class repeated the assertion that Alexa appeared to have been viciously beat up as of May 2. All of this was completely inconsistent with the State’s theory, as developed by the pseudo-psychologist Detective, that the incident had occurred the weekend before.

Attorneys Garland obtained court orders requiring the production of employment records. These employment records showed that Alexa worked a double shift at Palm Garden Nursing Home on Sunday, April 29. The evidence of this double shift completely contradicted Alexa’s assertion that she had been held captive and beat up during the course of this weekend. The defense would surmise that the pseudo-psychologist Detective had already determined that Alexa was working on that weekend and, therefore, structured the prosecution for the previous weekend – when Alexa was not actually working. However, Det. Z did not include the strikingly important fact of working this double shift in any report.

Attorneys Garland made an explicit and detailed request for copies of the crime scene photographs which were taken during the second police interview on May 17, 2012. Although the first written request was made in January, 2013, the photographs were not provided until many months later. The defense was forced to file a motion to compel production of evidence. The photographs were only provided the day before the hearing, which had been set for April 25, 2013, before Judge Pegg. These crime scene photographs show actual visible injuries. However, these injuries were not visible to Det. Minuse when he conducted the first interview on May 16, nor were they visible to the DCF investigator on May 7, 2012. The State’s case was falling apart.

The defense listed DCF Inv. Worrell as a witness and set him for deposition. Inv. Worrell appeared at deposition and, under oath, explained why he met with Alexa on May 7, 2012. Based upon the information available to him, Inv. Worrell explained that he was careful to look for signs of injury and saw none. Inv. Worrell’s observations of no injuries seemed to contradict the claims of Alexa’s “girlfriend” that she had been viciously beat up as of May 2.

The defense secured employment records showing that Adrian was working part of the weekend of April 27 – 30. Adrian’s employment records drove another spike into the heart of the pseudopsychologist’s investigation. Obviously, Adrian could not have been holding his sister captive if he was at work and if she was at work.

The defense filed a motion to dismiss on May 20, 2013. The motion alleged that there were no disputed material facts, and that the undisputed material facts did not establish a prima facie case of guilt against the defendants. This type of motion is often referred to as a “C4″ motion, since it is filed under Rule 3.190(c)(4) of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. Keep in mind that the information alleged that the crimes occurred April 20 – 23, based upon the fantastical investigation of the pseudo-psychologist Detective. The motion was set for hearing on June 11, 2013. Prosecutor William Long elected to drop all charges, as to both defendants, on June 10, 2013, the day before Judge Pegg would have heard the motion.

Conclusion

This sad case reflects the strange behavior which unhappy people often show. No one expects law enforcement officers to be perfect, but we do expect professional judgment based upon reasonable investigation. This case spun out of control, because a detective failed to do these things. Most independent observers would wonder why a detective would expend valuable public resources on such unfounded accusations. The role of government officials should be to avoid unwarranted intrusions into the private lives of ordinary citizens. Here, Adrian and Giselle were forced to post bond, hire lawyers, pay costs of defense, and live in fear for nearly a year. Fortunately, the truth prevailed. The false allegations of misconduct were dropped.

This case also highlights a potential difficulty for date-based defenses. If the defense had not filed the C4 motion, the State might have proceeded to trial for the April 20-23 dates. The State could then have argued that the information alleges “on or about”, and that any date could be proved. The courts allow the State to proceed on such flimsy date allegations – or to amend the charges in the middle of trial. Alert defense counsel should consider a variety of methods to force the State to stick with a specific date.

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