Recently I posted about Florida’s criminal procedure discovery rule and the Florida Supreme Court’s admirable effort in expanding it after a study found that snitch testimony accounts for over 15% of wrongful convictions. Although our state’s supreme court sought to widen the rule, the Tampa Police Department urged Tampa’s State Attorney’s office to create restrictions on that rule in limiting the ability of criminal defense attorneys to make audio/video copies in cases related to confidential informants. Hillsborough County’s State Attorney, Mark Ober, obliged. The Tampa Bay Times (“TBT”) covered this newly enacted policy, read here. In the post I listed the names of some of the snitch system casualties created by the war on drugs. Jason Westcott was on that list. I remembered reading the article by TBT regarding Mr. Westcott’s unfortunate and tragic demise earlier this year. “Informer, not neighbor complaints, led up to fatal Tampa pot raid.” Peter Jamison, Tampa Bay Times. A confidential informant, who now claims he lied, provided information to Tampa police officers that resulted in Westcott being the focus of a drug investigation by the Tampa Police Department, (“TPD”). A search warrant was obtained and upon execution Westcott was killed by Tampa’s finest and the search yielded a mother lode of ganja, $2.00 worth. Maybe there is in fact something to the cannabis usage gateway theory, it’s a gateway to death in Tampa.
According to Jamison’s article various accounts were given by TPD about how Westcott became the focus of a drug investigation.
1. When the reporters swarmed the scene of Westcott’s killing they were initially told by Tampa authorities that Westcott had “sold pot multiple times, armed, to undercover Tampa police officers.” then TPD said that ….
2. “the investigation of Westcott’s alleged drug dealing began because of neighbors’ complaints…” When TBT was unable to get records of the complaints or find these “neighbors”, then TPD said that….
3. the investigation began as a result of tip by an informer. TBT later learned that this informer had conducted the “buys” not the undercover cops as originally claimed by TPD.
TPD spokeswoman Laura McElroy, who gave these inaccurate statements to the press, later said her statements were based on “conflicting information she received from detectives.” Nice, these “detectives” were able to secure a search warrant from a Tampa judge. That judge unwittingly signed a death warrant.
On Friday Peter Jamison published an exclusive on the informer. The TPD informer, Ronnie Coogle, is now is snitching on TPD and claims that the information that he gave about Westcott were lies. Times exclusive: Confidential informer blows whistle in Jason Westcott death. Coogle states in the TBT report how it was easy for him to lie because his police handlers didn’t equip him with audio or video. According to the TBT article spokeswoman Laura McElory said that “narcotics investigators sometimes avoid taping informers’ conversations because they must share such recordings with defense attorneys, risking the disclosure of an informer’s identity.” If there is any audio/video recording Mr. Ober please limit the discovery rule should those pesky truth seeking defense attorneys (damn them) make requests to make copies as permitted under the rule. Who gives a flying flip if the highest court in our state recently expanded the rule to hopefully prevent wrongful convictions. Hmmm….wait…let’s not make a copy at all, who cares if we risk wrongfully convicting or killing innocent citizens as long as we protect the identity of our snitches. Will the new police body cams record interactions between police and confidential informants?
Coogle is now snitching on his police handlers, talk about poetic justice. However, according to Jamison’s report, although Chief Castor regarded Coogle as believable while acting as a snitch against Westcott, he is not so believable now that he is snitching against her officers. Tampa Police Chief’s snitch credibility detector works as follows: Snitch on an innocent citizen (Westcott had no criminal record) from Tampa and the snitch is that akin to Abe Lincoln, snitch on Castor’s officers and the snitch is that akin to Beelzebub. Scary state of affairs when you don’t know who is telling the truth, the snitch or those sworn to protect and serve. Scarier still when you’re leaning towards the snitch.
Castor wanted to retire this year but Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn persuaded her to stay on another year. Mayor Buckhorn told a crowd recently that “his” chief was not going anywhere. Mayor Buckhorn do you care at all to address the community about the tragic demise of a former Tampa resident who was senselessly taken out by members of an agency led by “your” chief? Should “we the people” feel safe in your city?