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Boat Captain Survives Storm: Not Guilty of Battery In 30 Minutes On 06/14/19

Spencer Scott (not his real name) is a “marine officer”, licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard to operate a variety of vessels. Captain Scott’s career would have been negatively impacted by a guilty verdict. His clients are, after all, large corporations and wealthy individuals.

Capt. Scott’s sister accused him of battery on 1/21/2018. She would, the next day, apply for a domestic violence injunction.

The sister lost the injunction hearing, then appealed the ruling to the Fourth District Court of Appeal (DCA). Capt. Scott retained Jeffrey H. Garland to handle the appeal and the battery case. Attorney Garland was successful in securing a dismissal of the sister’s appeal by 4th DCA order dated 6/14/2018.

Capt. Scott was always going to take this battery case to trial. At no time did he entertain any other option. After all, he had already won the injunction hearing and the appeal.

In the world of criminal courts, time can move slowly. Capt. Scott’s trial would have to give way to other felony, federal and appeal cases which took precedence over a mere misdemeanor. Finally, Capt. Scott’s case was set for jury trial on 6/11/2019 – over 16 months after the underlying incident.

During the course of the sister’s testimony, inconsistencies and prior statements were brought to the jury’s attention:

  • The sister swore under oath that her statement in support of the domestic violence injunction was true.
  • The sister swore that one of her adult sons witnessed the alleged battery. Trouble was that the son did not witness the battery, and said so when he testified.
  • The sister had worked for years for the Martin County School Board. Yet she told the jury that she was computer illiterate: “a pen and paper girl”. Trouble was that she could have used that pen to cross out any part of her affidavit, which she herself typed into a computer at the St. Lucie County Clerk’s office. Instead, she admitted signing her name just below the following statement: “I HAVE READ EVERY STATEMENT IN THIS PETITION, AND EACH STATEMENT IS TRUE AND CORRECT…”.

After the State rested, Attorney Garland called Capt. Scott’s mother to the stand. She testified that she well-remembered the day in question. The mother said Capt. Scott had come home for a short period of time – some 10-15 minutes – to walk his puppy “Ting”. At no time was there a violent encounter between Capt. Scott and his sister.

At the time of the incident, the mom lived in the same house as the sister. This house was next door to Capt. Scott’s house. The mom explained that the sister did NOT have any injury to her face.

When confronted by the prosecutor, the mom first explained that she loves her children equally, but that the sister must have self-inflicted the injury which was later photographed by a deputy.

Later on, the prosecutor called the deputy to “rebut” the mom’s testimony. However, the deputy confirmed that the mom and sister were arguing, and the mom said, “You know it didn’t happen”. The deputy admitted that he never tried to speak with the mom for her version of events. The deputy further confirmed that the sister evicted her own mother that very day. So, the deputy did not know where to contact the mom, nor did he know her phone number, because the sister did not provide it.

Capt. Scott testified in his own behalf that these events took place on a play-off football Sunday. He had met with a customer a bit earlier, then stopped by to walk his puppy. He said he was opening the puppy’s cage when the front door slammed open. No knocking. The sister just walked in to complain about her palm trees. Instead of following her to look at the palm trees, Capt. Scott walked “Ting” and left to meet another customer.

Capt. Scott denied cutting the sister’s palm trees. In fact, Capt. Scott said he had bought and planted those palm trees. The sister had told the deputy that Capt. Scott had cut the palm trees with a “knife”. At her direction, the deputy took photos of the palm trees. The photos did not, argued the defense, show any damage.

The sister had explained how unhappy she was that Capt. Scott’s 15-year-old Labrador Retriever would poop in her yard. Problem was that the Labrador Retriever she was speaking about had died more than a year before the incident. The only dog Capt. Scott had at the time of the incident was Ting, who was then about eight weeks old.

The sister complained that Capt. Scott let her boat sink, and that she paid for the use of Capt. Scott’s boat lift. Problem was that the sister was habitually negligent in the upkeep of her boat. She would fail to keep the bilge pump working, to put the plug back in after using the boat, and/or fail to take the plug out when it was on the lift. Capt. Scott explained that his sister never paid a dime to use his boat lift, and that he had twice raised her sunken boat. The sister presented no proof to back up her claim that she had paid “rent” for the boat lift or had to pay Capt. Scott for raising her boat each time it sunk.

All these details are included to show the need to be prepared for trial. The jury returned a not guilty verdict, in just 30 minutes, on 6/14/19. Coincidentally, the not guilty verdict was rendered exactly one year after the 4th DCA dismissed the sister’s appeal.