Ron Wilson (not his real name) ran into trouble upon trouble. Initially jailed on the say so of aneighbor with known mental instability, Ron secured his release on bond. He then ran into problemswith his estranged wife, with whom he was attempting a reconciliation, which again landed him injail. The second arrest resulted in the revocation of the bond on the first charge. After spendingsome quality time at the St. Lucie County crossbar Hilton, the court reinstated the bond.Unfortunately, Ron was again arrested, because his daughter spoke to his estranged wife about thepossibility of dropping charges. Police misconstrued the daughter’s communication as direct orindirect contact by Ron, causing him to be arrested for violation of domestic battery bond restriction.Ron was returned to the quality accommodations provided by the St. Lucie County Jail – with allbonds revoked.
Only after his cases became thoroughly mucked up did Ron retain the services of Saint Lucie Criminal Lawyer Jeffrey H. Garland. Garland assessed the problem as complicated, but solvable. The solution would be to announce ready for trial on all charges as soon as possible and not to waive speedy trial. The first arrest was made on 2/9/14 for aggravated assault with a firearm. The “firearm” portion of the charge was totally bogus, because no one saw Ron with a firearm and certainly did not see him discharge one. The charges were, however, refilled in misdemeanor court as simple assault and criminal mischief.
Attorney Garland was retained on 4/25/14. Knowing that any delay would cost the client dearly,Garland announced ready for trial on 5/1/14 at the first docket call for the assault/malicious mischiefcharges. When County Judge Clifford H. Barnes set the case for trial on 6/25/14, Garland objected,because the trial date was outside the 90-day speedy trial period. Judge Barnes then reset the casefor jury selection on 5/29/14. The defense had located an eyewitness to the incident and was fullyready to proceed to trial. The State chose not to prosecute the case and dropped both charges at the5/29/14 docket call. Case No. 1 dropped! Unfortunately, Ron had to stay in jail, because bonds hadbeen revoked.
The next case scheduled for court was a misdemeanor charge of violating a bond restriction. Thedefense ignored threats to “upfile” the charge from a misdemeanor violation of Section 741.29(6)to felony witness tampering. The defense maintained that the State should either bring the case totrial immediately or drop the charge. Ron maintained he was entirely innocent of the charge. Therewas no proof that Ron had personally attempted to contact his estranged wife or requested that hisdaughter do so. As the initial arrest was made on 4/17/14, the State was running up against a speedytrial problem for a misdemeanor prosecution. Faced with a defendant who was actively assertinghis rights, the State again abandoned the charge by filing a no information on 6/4/14. Case No. 2dropped! At this point, Ron was able to bond out.
As to the only remaining charge – domestic battery – the defense had located an eyewitness to theincident. The eyewitness had been walking his dog in the early morning hours of 3/29/14. Henoticed that a woman was talking very loud and the front door was wide open. The woman behavedin a manner that suggested a high degree of intoxication. She seemed to be upset with a man, whowas later identified as Ron. The man was not, according to the eyewitness, loud or threatening. Hethen observed the woman throw a hard object, possibly a cocktail glass, at the man’s head. The manfell back as if injured, then laid on the couch. The woman continued to harangue the man, whobegged the woman to let him go to sleep.
The woman disappeared momentarily, then returned with scissors. She began to cut the man’s hairas he was attempting to sleep. The man had long hair, which extended most of the way down hisback. The man asked the woman to stop. When she continued her bad behavior, the man stood andpushed her away. The woman, who was dressed in no more than skimpy underwear, then left thehouse and got into a car parked in the driveway. According to the eyewitness, the woman appearedto “go to sleep”.
The next morning, the woman was to call the police. She advised the police that her husband had“strangled” her without cause. Police reports reflect that the woman denied that she had beendrinking. Police took photographs which confirmed that there was some type of bruising on thewoman’s neck. Of course, the police placed Ron under arrest for felony battery by strangulation,without ever asking for his side of the story.
Several days after being delivered to the St. Lucie County Jail, a public defender investigator wouldinterview Ron at the jail. Thankfully, the PD investigator took several photographs of the obviousinjury to the defendant’s head. Attorney Garland was later able to secure digital copies of thesephotographs. These photographs became important corroborating evidence of Ron’s innocence. Theeyewitness and the pictures showed that Ron was justified in using force to defend himself from anarmed battery, to-wit: the cutting of his hair with scissors. Ron was certainly entitled to usereasonable force to prevent the attack.
The eyewitness had inconveniently moved from Fort Pierce to Nashville, Tennessee. AttorneyGarland realized that the eyewitness’ story was corroborated by the significant head injurydocumented by the photographs taken several days after Ron’s arrest. The eyewitness was willingto return to Fort Pierce to give testimony, but had medical problems, as well as mechanical problemswith his car.
Attorney Garland appeared for docket call on the case, which had been reduced to misdemeanordomestic battery, on 6/5/14. At that time, Attorney Garland was not yet ready for trial, becausearrangements had not yet been made to bring the eyewitness back to Fort Pierce to give testimony.The case was continued until 7/3/14, at which time Attorney Garland announced ready for trial.Judge Barnes set the case for jury selection on 7/24/14. The prosecutor elected to drop the chargerather than to test the strength of the case before a jury. Case No. 3 dropped!
Prosecutors in the 19th Judicial Circuit employ a simple technique to encourage defendant’s to plea.Any arrest or violation of a bond condition will cause the prosecutor to file an ex-parte motion torevoke bond. 19th Circuit Judges routinely revoke such bonds on request, then refuse to reinstate thebonds.
The prosecutors know that jailed defendants are far less likely to exercise their constitutional rightto jury trials. After all, the State almost always seeks to “continue” the trials of incarcerateddefendants, because the accused will often plea guilty/no contest to get out of jail.Not so with Ron Wilson. He insisted on exercising his constitutional right to a jury trial –three times he did. Three times, the State dropped the charges.
Judges in the 19th Judicial Circuit should reconsider their unthinking and spasmodic kowtowingto the State’s bond revocation requests. Sometimes prosecutors are justly moving to jail adangerous individual. More often, the State is seeking to jail individuals to coerce pleas. Theroutine revocation of bonds deny accused citizens their right to pre-trial release under Article I,Section 14 of the Florida Constitution.