Letter: The State Attorney should not look the other way

Letter: The State Attorney should not look the other way

C. David Nixon
Melrose, FL

Dear Historic City News editor:

The Putnam County sheriff’s detectives in charge of investigating my stepson’s homicide decided, for whatever reason, not to complete their investigation and crafted a false report to close the case in November 2015.

In the detective’s report, they claimed that State Attorney R. J. Larizza’s office had reviewed the case and “prosecution was declined”.

Utilizing information obtained from the hospital, the detectives also made false statements that the District 23 Medical Examiner’s office ruled the death a homicide on October 15, 2015.

The truth is that the autopsy on my stepson was conducted by the District 8 Medical Examiner, and, as of December 29, 2015, a ruling on the cause and manner of his death had not been reached.

After I notified the State Attorney’s office about this, the 7th Judicial Circuit Homicide Investigation Unit in St. Augustine obtained a copy of the case report from one of the Putnam County detectives. That detective resigned a few days later.

In February 2016, after a 6-week review, during a meeting with Assistant State Attorney Chris Miller and Jason Lewis, I was informed that this was “an honest misunderstanding”. Miller said the only things he found wrong with the report were typos.

At that point, I provided the attorneys with a printed copy of text messages between the detective who authored the false report and a friend of his, which read in part, “I did nothing but what I was told”. The detective wrote, “My Lt. and Capt. said there was nothing to charge”.

When Miller and Lewis read the message, Assistant State Attorney Lewis told me that it was not their job to investigate law enforcement nor was it their responsibility to question the truthfulness of the deputy’s investigation.

Lewis told me “If they bring us junk, that’s what we have to use.”

Recently Assistant State Attorney Miller acknowledged that on the date the false report claims the case was “reviewed” by the State Attorney’s office and “prosecution was declined”, the Putnam County detective and his Captain gave Miller “an approximately 30-second explanation of the facts of the case” while the three men were eating lunch at Bono’s.

Miller also acknowledges that even though he said, “it doesn’t sound like a prosecutable case,” he stressed to the detective that was an informal opinion and asked him “to please send the case materials to him for a formal review.” That never happened.

The medical examiner issue is simply a matter of public record. The State Attorney’s office understands the statements in the report are false, although Miller now claims that he doesn’t recall me ever raising any concerns about the medical examiner statement. The concerns I raised are also a matter of public record.

The Putnam County detectives never intended for the false statements to be seen by the State Attorney’s office — they were simply made to deceive my family.

R. J. Larizza’s office maintains that it is none of their business if the law enforcement officer’s report, used to make a prosecutorial decision, contains false statements. As of this date, they have refused to investigate the misconduct themselves. They have refused to refer it to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for further investigation, even though Miller acknowledged that it is his understanding that the Homicide Investigation Unit regularly refers misconduct by law enforcement to that state agency.

One of the detectives involved is a close, personal friend of R. J. Larizza and the father of one of Larizza’s assistant state attorneys. Larizza has refused to recuse his office.

For the state attorney to attempt to cover-up and ignore misconduct committed during a criminal investigation should concern every citizen of the 7th Judicial Circuit, particularly the criminal defense attorneys.

Why should any sheriff or law enforcement officer be bothered by laws when you have a state attorney willing to cover your back?