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The Law Office of Jeffrey H. Garland, P.A.

Fort Pierce Criminal Defense Lawyer

  • January 30, 2014

Allstate’s “Drive Wise” Records Show Squatter to be Liar:

Stalking Charge Dropped at Jury Selection A 77-year-old man was arrested for “stalking”. The “victim” made a sworn statement as follows: [Mr. Cook] has be[en] coming by my house 3 to 4 times a day dating to back to last year. If we go to the store, he follows me driving behind my car and he follows my son. Last Sunday he was on property cursing at the lawn man telling him to get the hell off the property and that he was the owner. He isn’t the owner. I [Bob Squatter] (not his real name) am the owner of the property and the land on Bitter bush [Lane].

When my son came [home] at 2:00 P.M. yesterday, he pulled up in his black Cadillac and then pulled off. He takes pictures of my family and my vehicles any time we go in and out. He also sits in front of our door all the time.

Based upon Mr. Squatter’s affidavit, a St. Lucie County Deputy elected to arrest Mr. Cook (not his real name) for stalking. Mr. Cook retained Jeffrey H. Garland immediately thereafter.

Mr. Garland quickly sent out a public records request for 911 records. The 911 record from 9/25/13 reflected a call from Mr. Squatter, during which he complained that Mr. Cook had just driven by in his black Cadillac.

After conferring with the client, Mr. Garland determined that the client was insured through Allstate Insurance Company, and that his only vehicle, a black Cadillac, was registered with Allstate’s “DriveWise” program. It was determined that DriveWise keeps an actual tally of a variety of factors which could effect insurance costs and coverage. Such factors include driving time, driving location and driving performance. That information is transmitted in real time to DriveWise via a wireless connection. Using Mr. Cook’s access codes, Attorney Garland logged onto the DriveWise website.

The DriveWise records showed that the black Cadillac had been driven only twice on September 25. The vehicle was driven at 4:53 P.M. for 2.1 miles. The vehicle was then driven at 5:57 P.M. another 2.2 miles, returning to Mr. Cook’s home at 6:13 P.M. The vehicle was not being driven at all at 2:00 P.M. when Mr. Squatter claimed it was on Bitterbush Lane.

Mr. Garland concluded that the DriveWise records completely contradicted Mr. Squatter’s allegation as to the events on September 25, 2013. The DriveWise records went back several months. A further review of the DriveWise records proved that the black Cadillac was rarely used, and that the times, distances and locations did not jive with Mr. Squatter’s complaints.

Attorney Garland received a 911 response for an earlier complaint that Mr. Squatter had lodged against Mr. Cook on 5/17/13. At that time, Mr. Squatter alleged that Mr. Cook physically threatened him at his home. The 911 record revealed a different story. Mr. Cook’s wife, on that day, was alarmed when she saw Mr. Squatter arrive with his adult son and confront her husband. Afraid that the situation might spiral out of control, Mrs. Cook called 911. Mrs. Cook opened the window, and the entire confrontation was recorded by the 911 system. The recording showed clearly that Mr. Squatter and his adult son were the aggressors.

Attorney Garland’s investigation revealed that Mr. Squatter had purchased a home from Mr. and Mrs. Cook using seller financing. The home was located in an over-55 community called Savannah Club, located in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Mr. Squatter “bounced” the closing check. That the was the last money that the Cooks ever saw from Mr. Squatter. He failed to make any mortgage or tax payments on the home.

Garland’s investigation further showed that the Cooks had been long time residents of Savannah Club. They had many friends throughout the  development, including the street on which Mr. Squatter lived. There was single entrance and exit to Savannah Club, which required the Cooks to drive past Mr. Squatter’s house anytime they would leave or return.

The initial problems with Mr. Squatter began after the foreclosure action was filed. Mr. Squatter complained to the police that Mr. Cook would “drive by” the property and take photographs. The defense investigation showed that there were many reasons for Mr. Cook to drive by the property, including the need to enter and leave the development and to visit friends who lived nearby. There was, in the final analysis, absolutely nothing wrong with checking on the status of the property. Any creditor has a legitimate basis for ensuring the security of his collateral.

Mr. Squatter obtained an extension of time from the foreclosure court to obtain a lawyer. After that extension of time had come and gone, the foreclosure was set for a summary judgment hearing. Mr. Squatter filed for bankruptcy the day immediately before the summary judgment hearing. The summary judgment hearing, as a result, had to be postponed.

Mr. Squatter was required to file financial statements and attend a creditors’ meeting as part of the bankruptcy proceeding. Mr. Squatter failed to attend the scheduled creditors’ meeting in the bankruptcy proceeding and failed to provide any of the financial statements. The creditors’ meeting was rescheduled and, again, Mr. Squatter failed to attend.

Attorney Garland’s research showed that Mr. Squatter’s accusations on 9/25/13 came about the time that Mr. Squatter failed to attend the second creditors’ hearing. He knew that his bankruptcy proceeding was about to be dismissed. Mr. Garland concluded that Mr. Squatter was attempting to delay the day of reckoning in his foreclosure matter by making a false accusation against Mr. Cook.

The bankruptcy proceeding was, in fact, dismissed several days later due to Mr. Squatter’s various derelictions. Unfortunately for Mr. Cook, the deputy who responded to Mr. Squatter’s 911 call suffered from no great desire to seek the truth. The deputy never asked Mr. or Mrs. Cook for their view of the circumstances. Instead, the deputy simply applied for a warrant and, after several weeks, Mr. Cook was arrested on the warrant. He suffered a heart attack en route to the jail and had to be taken to the hospital. He was “ROR’d” at the hospital due to his medical condition. After all, Mr. Cook was 77 years old, overweight, and had a heart condition. None of these factors had any impact on the deputy who secured the warrant without the least interest in conducting a proper investigation.

The foreclosure case was reset for a summary judgment hearing after the bankruptcy was dismissed. Mr. Squatter’s various accusations and demands got him nowhere. The foreclosure court entered a final summary judgment of foreclosure.

All of this information was submitted by Attorney Garland to the State Attorney’s office. Mr. Garland filed a motion seeking to depose Mr. Squatter, a procedure which is not routinely allowed in misdemeanor court. Judge Kathryn Nelson granted leave to take Mr. Squatter’s deposition by order dated 12/11/13. The defense agreed, however, that a deposition would not be necessary if the State’s allegation and proofs were restricted to the date alleged in the Information, to-wit: September 25, 2013. The prosecutor agreed to limit the accusation and evidence to that single day.

Attorney Garland appeared with Mr. Cook ready for trial on 1/22/14. The prosecutor correctly nolle prosequied these charges.

Analysis

It is not surprising that Mr. Squatter would attempt to “game” the system for as much and as long as he could. It is disappointing that a St. Lucie County deputy, who has sworn to serve and protect, was completely derelict in his investigation of this matter. As a result, a 77 year old man, with no criminal record, was put through the meat grinder. He was humiliated by being arrested; nearly killed by a heart attack; and forced to hire a Fort Pierce criminal defense lawyer. Maybe law enforcement officials should examine the impact of their actions and make sure that their on-the-spot guesswork is supported by actual evidence.

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