Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Bill Grant points the finger at Sheriff Dawsy in The St. Pete Times.

Sheriff's action, not legislators', was off base in Lunsford case.

Let the halls of the nation's capitol ring any time one of our children are murdered, let members of Congress decry the violence put upon the most sacred of humanity.

The defenseless child deserves the attention of every member of Congress, every state legislator and every other elected official who in any way can affect the outcome of the person or persons responsible for harming a child. Let the media rage with indignities and incite the public and elected officials to lawful action.

Bill O'Reilly and other national media outlets have focused on the murder of Jessica Lunsford. The attention is productive and positive. The national and state attention has created state legislation, now the law of Florida, and new local processes, and even federal legislation is on the horizon for sexual predators. This is good; and, credit is due state Sen. Nancy Argenziano and state Rep. Charlie Dean for carrying this legislative torch to the finish line and to U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite.

However, criticisms levied against Brown-Waite by the Citrus Times and Sheriff Jeff Dawsy are disgusting examples of the need to criticize those who join with an angry public because three actors in the murder of a child are going free.

The parallel drawn by the Times that Brown-Waite is somehow in the mud with Couey is false, capricious and utterly devoid of rational thought. Our representative decries the violence perpetrated on Jessica Lunsford and vicariously to every family in our nation. Our representative challenges the decision made by local officials and she is automatically condemned, on what basis? By accepting the argument of the very people she criticizes? Does the Times expect those folks to be objective? Brown-Waite did in fact have conversations with Paul Perez, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, and his office.

Sheriff Jeff Dawsy blew it! The facts as they relate to the Florida statutes, the law: On March 19, Dorothy Dixon, Madie Secord and Matthew Dittrich were arrested by deputies of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office. Why? It was amateur hour at the Sheriff's Office. I believe because of external pressures from the very same national press he now decries as missing the boat.

Dawsy could have waited to make the arrest and the state attorney would have had two years to make a misdemeanor case against the defendants or four years or more to make a felony case against the defendants before the statute of limitations expired (Florida Statute 775.15). Under the law, when the three were arrested, speedy trial (Florida Rules of Crime Procedure 3.91) immediately began to run and the longer time periods under the statute of limitations no longer applied. Specifically, because the sheriff made an arrest, the state of Florida then only had 90 days to bring the defendants to trial for a misdemeanor or the state is forever barred from prosecuting a misdemeanor charge.

It also means that the state has only 175 days to bring the defendants to trial for a felony or the state is forever barred from prosecuting them for a felony; that date is Sept. 10.

Dawsy blew it! He could have very easily taken what he had to Brad King or Rich Buxman at the prosecutor's office and discussed the case and received a legal opinion before an arrest was made. If it was determined at that point additional investigation was needed to make a case, further investigation could have been done to make a case against the three people at issue.

If our sheriff, who claims folks are honored to be arrested by him, had paid attention to the simple details - you know, the laws of Florida - maybe the outcome would/could have been a little different.

The Times' hook, line and sinker approach from the sheriff's tales of fantasy pales in comparison to the brave legislators who took issue with the death of a child and are braving the criticism of an uninformed local newspaper. God bless Ginny Brown-Waite and Bill O'Reilly and all of those who stand fast and ready to defend the memory of a child whose life was taken and desire to hold all of the actors for her murder accountable.


-- William J. Grant, Inverness

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