» posted on Thursday, October 10th, 2019 at 12:19 pm by admin
What happens when the police become the bad guys?
Post Correction: of initial post publication: The initial blog post published “Bernie McCabe’s office is prosecuting the missing money and damaged tag related to the January 2019 traffic stop.” The paragraph should have read “This January 2019 traffic stop (with the missing money and damaged tag) is being prosecuted by Bernie McCabe’s office.
A Police Officer’s Oath
“On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character or the public trust. I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions. I will always uphold the Constitution, my community and the agency I serve.” Law Enforcement Oath of Honor
This is the oath that law enforcement takes when they are sworn in as a police officer. Each agency has an oath that varies, but the foundation of the oath is uniform throughout the different agencies.
What happens to the bad police officers when they violate their oath?
What happens to the police when they violate this oath by purposefully violating their agency’s standard operating procedures? What happens when the police break the law?
A defendant was stopped by Pasco Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Campana back in January 2019. The traffic stop was because the defendant was driving around at 3am and was a Florida Inmate Release. The basis for the traffic stop, according to the deputy’s report, was for an inoperable tag light. Troopers Jason Coffee and Alejandro Bustos responded to this traffic stop as back up.
During this traffic stop, Deputy Campana’s body worn camera (BWC) was activated, and the defendant’s tag light and tag are visible on during the BWC recording. The recording initially shows an operational tag light as well as a clean and undamaged tag. However, when the defendant is released from jail, his tag light is no longer in working order and his tag is severely damaged.
During this traffic stop, Deputy Campana deactivates his body worn camera 4 separate times in violation of the Sheriff’s policy concerning the use and activation of body worn cameras.
Deputy Campana fails to document who the troopers are that respond as backup and he fails to document what if any role they played in the search of the defendant’s car.
The defendant had a substantial amount of money that went missing during this traffic stop and subsequent arrest and it is during one of the 4 deactivations that Deputy Campana counted the money recovered from the defendant’s car.
The BWC captures Deputy Campana and Trooper Coffee high fiving each other during this investigation and arrest. It also captures one of the troopers identifying himself as Trooper Palmer when questioned about his identity.
It was discovered that in 2005 Trooper Jason Coffee went out to Ybor with 2 friends and after a night of drinking, Trooper Coffee and his 2 friends decided to go home. On the way to one of his friend’s houses, Trooper Coffee and his 2 friends decide to “go fuck with some people” at a park just outside of downtown St. Pete. (Based on the description and area, it appears Trooper Coffee and his 2 friends went to Williams Park). Trooper Coffee waited in the car while his 2 friends went to “fuck with people”. When the friends came back to the car, one of them said “he couldn’t believe he did that. He felt like shit”. The friend told Trooper Coffee that he “couldn’t believe he stabbed that guy.”
Trooper Jason Coffee was arrested that night and later charged with obstructing or resisting without violence. It should be noted that this incident occurred prior to Jason Coffee joining the Florida Highway Patrol.
The Office of the State Attorney, 6th Judicial Circuit was aware of this incident because Bernie McCabe’s office was the office that prosecuted Jason Coffee in 2005.
Bernie McCabe’s office is currently prosecuting the January 2019 traffic stop case (with the missing money and damaged tag light and tag). What if any notice was provided to this defendant indicating that Jason Coffee was arrested and prosecuted in 2005?
Was the Florida Highway Patrol aware of Jason Coffee’s 2005 arrest? If FHP was not aware of this arrest prior to hiring Jason Coffee, are they aware now and what if anything will they do to address this?
Depositions were taken on Deputy Campana, Trooper Coffee and Trooper Bustos in this January 2019 case and all of the information recited above was obtained during these depositions. (please click on linked Motion to Suppress below which has attached the deposition transcript and exhibits).
Should the State Attorney’s office still be prosecuting this case based on the facts that have been alleged in the pending Motion to Suppress and the supporting deposition transcripts and exhibits? What should law enforcement agency leaders do when law enforcement officers who are entrusted to protect and serve become the bad guys? Florida You Judge!
Michelle D. Lambo is a criminal defense attorney with her office located in Tampa, Florida. She was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida. She attended St. Petersburg Junior College, the University of South Florida and graduated from the University of Florida with her bachelor’s degree. She graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2003. She practices criminal defense throughout North and Central Florida. www.MichelleLamboLaw.com. She is a contributing editor to Florida You Judge and has co-hosted several Florida You Judge vlogs. In her spare time she is an avid dog mom and enjoys running.
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