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10 Sep 2012

Be Careful “Tossing” Your Girlfreind a Beer When Boating

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It might have been a perfect day on the water. The sky was clear; the sun was warm; and life was good – until deputies showed up at “Dynamite Point”, just inside the Fort Pierce Inlet.

On May 16, 2009, Deputy Vinny Bonagura was on marine patrol for the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office (SLCSO). At approximately 4:22 P.M., he was “flagged down” by a man who claimed that WGM threw a beer can at a woman.

The alleged female “victim” was WGM’s long-time girlfriend. The person who flagged down Deputy Bonagura was a man who apparently wished to usurp WGM’s position. He may have thought to eliminate the “competition” by having WGM arrested.

On what might have otherwise been an idyllic day on the water, Deputy Bonagura placed WGM under arrest for domestic battery on his girlfriend. The prosecutor would later direct-file an additional charge of disorderly intoxication.

The entire prosecution amounted to this: Deputy Bonagura claimed that WGM threw a full can of beer “at” his girlfriend and struck her in the leg, causing a “red mark on her leg which did not require medical treatment”.

WGM admitted the incident, but from a different perspective. WGM said he was tossing a beer “to” his girlfriend. The girlfriend agreed that this was a “tossed to” and not a “throw at” situation and was prepared to testify as such.

WGM rejected the State’s plea offer and elected to announce “ready for trial” at the first docket call before St. Lucie County Judge Phillip J. Yacucci.

In this case, Attorney Garland knew that Deputy Bonagura would not be allowed to introduce hearsay statements from the unidentified man who made the initial allegation. The complaining witness would not be testifying, because Deputy Bonagura said he was an “unknown person”. Since there would be no admissible evidence of a criminal act, there was no basis for the prosecution.

In light of these circumstances, the prosecutor correctly dropped all charges on October 5, 2009.

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