William Sheppard of the Jacksonville law firm of Sheppard, White, Thomas & Kachergus, is taking Sheriff David Shoar and Detective Thomas Marmo to court; alleging an unconstitutional invasion of the privileged relationship between an attorney and her client.
Sheppard, and law partner Matthew Kachergus, are representing local attorney Anne Marie Gennusa and her client, 43 year-old Joel Keith Studivant.
At issue is an interview that occurred June 8th of this year at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, and, what Gennusa and Studivant claim was a violation of their expectation of privacy in what they describe as a confidential, privileged communication between client and attorney.
“The audio-video recording made of this incident demonstrates a complete disregard and disrespect for the fundamental rights of a criminal defendant and his attorney,” attorneys William Sheppard and Matthew Kachergus said in a joint statement.
Karen Y. Kirksey, Public Information Coordinator for The Florida Bar, provided Historic City News with a copy of findings reached by Seventh Judicial Circuit Grievance Committee “B” Chairman Sung Lee and Frances R. Brown-Lewis, Bar Counsel; following an investigation of a complaint brought by Detective Marmo against Gennusa.
Marmo alleged that Gennusa tampered with evidence, hindered a police investigation and acted outside the scope of her authority as an attorney.
At the conclusion of The Florida Bar Grievance Committee investigation on October 12th, they found “no probable cause” for Marmo’s complaint and determined that the matter involving Gennusa was closed.
Details of the investigation that were made public, sustain the following findings of fact:
Gennusa, along with her client, Joel Keith Studivant, met with Marmo at the St. Johns County Sheriffs Office in June 2009. Marmo interviewed Studivant regarding his alleged violation of a domestic violence injunction.
The entire interview was audio and video recorded.
During the course of the interview, Marmo requested Studivant complete an affidavit — and he began to do so. Marmo and Gennusa left the room.
At some point, Gennusa was advised that Marmo intended to arrest Studivant.
Gennusa returned to the room and discussed the matter with Studivant. Gennusa determined that it was not in Studivant’s best interest to complete the affidavit.
The affidavit was not signed or sworn to and Studivant had not handed it to Marmo.
Gennusa placed the unsworn and unsigned statement in her handbag.
Marmo thereafter entered the room and requested the statement claiming it was property of the Sheriff’s department. Gennusa took the affidavit from her purse, briefly expressed her position and requested to speak with Marmo’s supervisor. Marmo indicated that he was contacting him, and then left the room.
Gennusa sat back down with Studivant with the statement in her hand. Gennusa rested her hand and the statement on the table.
Marmo returned to the room and without any warning, snatched the statement out of Gennusa’s hand and thrust it into his pant’s pocket.
Marmo immediately placed Studivant under arrest and told Gennusa to leave the room. Gennusa asked that Marmo’s supervisor come into the room to discuss the matter. Marmo again instructed Gennusa to leave and stated that his supervisor was outside the interview room.
Gennusa left the room to speak to Marmo’s supervisor. She only returned to gather her client’s property.
After reviewing the video of the interview, it does not appear that Gennusa was visibly upset and angry as Marmo stated in the complaint. Gennusa did seem concerned about the matter, although, Gennusa had placed Studivant’s statement into her handbag and prepared to leave the room.
After conferring with her client, when Marmo returned to the room and inquired about the statement, Gennusa immediately pulled the statement out.
Gennusa explained her position regarding ownership of the statement. Gennusa did not attempt to conceal it from Marmo or leave before resolving the issue. When Gennusa could not resolve the matter with Marmo, she asked to speak with Marmo’s supervisor. Marmo seemed in agreement with this as a resolution to the matter.
When, Marmo came back to the room, the supervisor was not with him and Marmo immediately ripped the document from Gennusa’s hand.
There is no evidence that Gennusa was arrested or charged with tampering with evidence.
Gennusa had a legitimate reason for holding onto the unsworn, incomplete and unsigned statement of her client. Gennusa expressed her position to Marmo and attempted to resolve it with him. Gennusa requested to speak with Marmo’s supervisor in an attempt to resolve the issue of to whom the statement belonged. Gennusa remained professional throughout the conversation with Marmo and sought legitimate means to resolve the matter.
“The evidence provided does not support Marmo’s allegations that Gennusa acted unethically”, concluded the findings.