Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Suit Against Agent Who Reinvestigated a Florida Mother’s Death Is Dismissed. (NY Times).

Thank God for Article III federal courts, for judicial independence and for The New York Times! Justice for Michelle O'Connell.

Still waiting on St. Augustine Record to write a story quoting Judge Brian J. Davis, with a link to his 22-page decision, issued on March 30, 2018 (Good Friday/Passover).

Apparently, the St. Augustine Record still has no PACER.gov account.

Or is it waiting for "spin" from Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994?

You tell me.   For comparison, I've appended The St. Augustine Record's belated second story, which finally quotes the summary judgment order and gives a link to the landmark decision by Judge Brian J. Davis.

Here's The New York Times story:
















Photo

Michelle O’Connell’s daughter, Alexis, in 2017. She was 4 when her mother was fatally shot in St. Augustine, Fla., in 2010. CreditGeorge Etheredge for The New York Times 

In a stinging rebuke to one of Florida’s most influential sheriffs, a federal judge found that a state law enforcement official had probable cause to believe that one of the sheriff’s deputies had fatally shot his girlfriend as she was preparing to leave him.
The sheriff, David B. Shoar of St. Johns County, had waged a yearslong campaign to convince the public that Rusty Rodgers, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, had violated the rights of the deputy, Jeremy Banks, during the state’s reinvestigation of the shooting, originally ruled a suicide by the sheriff more than seven years ago.
The judge, Brian J. Davis, on Friday dismissed a lengthy civil case filed by Deputy Banks, with strong support from the sheriff, accusing Agent Rodgers of, among other things, coaching witnesses and filing false and misleading information to a state court in support of his request to search the deputy’s property.
In the order tossing out the lawsuit, the judge concluded, “Even in the light most favorable to the Deputy Banks, the record, considered in its entirety, reflects a thoughtful examination of difficult facts and circumstances.”
While concluding that Agent Rodgers had acted legally, the judge did not rule on whether the death was a suicide or a homicide — merely that the state agent had had probable cause, based on what he knew at the time, to believe that Deputy Banks might have been responsible.
The case has long stirred strong emotions in St. Augustine, where the 2010 shooting of Deputy Banks’s girlfriend, Michelle O’Connell, pitted one law enforcement agency against another and led to the appointments of three special prosecutors.
Deputy Banks remains on the force after prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence to charge him. He denies harming Ms. O’Connell.
The circumstances of the shooting and the sheriff’s response raised broader questions about how well the police can investigate allegations of domestic violence within their own ranks. Ms. O’Connell, a single mother of a 4-year-old girl, was fatally shot with Deputy Banks’s service weapon. No suicide note was found.
Agent Rodgers, a former agent of the year, was asked to re-examine the shooting after Ms. O’Connell’s family complained that the sheriff had not properly investigated her death. The state agent subsequently determined that the sheriff had botched the case with missteps that included failing to collect important evidence at the crime scene. Agent Rodgers also uncovered evidence that appeared to contradict Deputy Banks’s account of how Ms. O’Connell had died.







Photo

Sheriff David B. Shoar of St. Johns County.CreditCharlotte Kesl for The New York Times 

The shooting and the sheriff’s attempts to discredit Agent Rodgers were the subjectof two New York Times investigations as well as a documentary by the PBS program “Frontline.”
The Times, after reviewing thousands of pages of investigative files and legal documents, reported in June that Sheriff Shoar’s attacks on Agent Rodgers were based largely on unsupported allegations and innuendo.
The judge’s order on Friday tracked closely with what The Times had found. The court ruled that many of Deputy Banks’s claims were argumentative and unsupported in the more than 3,000 pages of documents in the case record.
According to Deputy Banks’s account, he and Ms. O’Connell were home alone late one night in September 2010 when she began packing her things to leave. Although they had argued that evening while driving back to the house they shared, he said, they did not argue once they were home.
Yet Agent Rodgers found two neighbors who said they had heard a woman screaming for help before the sound of gunshots. The sheriff’s officers had not bothered to interview neighbors, or Ms. O’Connell’s family, before declaring the death a suicide.
Sheriff Shoar repeatedly claimed that Ms. O’Connell had been suicidal, but Judge Davis noted that “the vast majority, if not all of Ms. O’Connell’s family members and friends reported she was in good mental health, not likely to commit suicide, and was looking forward to the future.”
Sheriff Shoar has not retreated from his conclusion of suicide, citing the findings of two state medical examiners. A third pathologist, Dr. William R. Anderson, later hired by the family, concluded that Ms. O’Connell had died from a gunshot “inflicted by another.” After exhuming the body, Dr. Anderson — himself a former state medical examiner — discovered that Ms. O’Connell had a cracked jaw, a fact that had not been noted by the first two medical examiners.
At the time, Sheriff Shoar issued a statement calling the exhumation “reprehensible” and accusing Ms. O’Connell’s mother of “molesting” the body by removing it from its “place of rest.”
A lawyer for Agent Rodgers, William J. Sheppard, said on Monday that the judge’s order was “as expected, because Agent Rodgers did nothing but his job in an efficient and honorable way, as he has done for the past 30-plus years.”
In an email, Deputy Banks’s lawyer, Mac McLeod, expressed disappointment in the judgment and said they would consider an appeal. “We respect the efforts of the court and certainly will analyze the order in great detail as we move forward,” he said.
Sheriff Shoar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.














READ THE FINDINGS ...

To read a copy of Judge Davis’ order visit http://bit.ly/BanksVsRodgersOrder or staugustine.com.


Banks’ suit against FDLE agent in O’Connell case dismissed



By Jared Keever
Posted Apr 4, 2018 at 2:01 AM
Updated Apr 5, 2018 at 6:48 AM

While a federal judge’s recent ruling in a civil case, filed by a St. Johns County sheriff’s deputy against the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent who had investigated the shooting death of the deputy’s girlfriend, didn’t shed any more light on what happened the night the 24-year-old mother died, it did close one of the remaining unfinished chapters in the years-long Michelle O’Connell controversy by answering the question as to whether FDLE Agent Rusty Rodgers had violated the rights of Deputy Jeremy Banks during his investigation.

In an order filed Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Davis, of the Middle District of Florida, granted Rodgers’ motion for final summary judgement in the case that Banks originally filed in circuit court in St. Johns County in November of 2013 and has been working its way through the federal court since 2014.

Banks had alleged that Rodgers, among other things, had provided false information to obtain search warrants and unlawfully detained Banks at one point during the investigation into O’Connell’s death.

O’Connell was found the evening of Sept. 2, 2010, in Banks’ home suffering from a gunshot wound through her mouth.

Rodgers was assigned to the case by FDLE after O’Connell’s family raised concerns about the original investigation — conducted by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office — that ultimately concluded the death was a suicide.

The gun that killed O’Connell was Banks’ service weapon, and her family has said that she wouldn’t have harmed herself. Banks, who placed the 911 call the night she died saying that she shot herself, maintains his innocence and is still a deputy with the Sheriff’s Office.

The case, which has since been reviewed by multiple medical examiners, remains classified as a suicide, and at least two special prosecutors have looked at it and found there is not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Banks.

O’Connell’s death has also been the subject of two lengthy articles from The New York Times and a PBS Frontline documentary.

READ THE FINDINGS ...

To read a copy of Judge Davis’ order visit http://bit.ly/BanksVsRodgersOrder or staugustine.com.


The most recent New York Times story, published in June, painted St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar as having waged a public campaign to discredit Rodgers and his investigation into the death.

Davis’ order hinged largely on whether or not Rodgers was entitled to qualified immunity which would protect him from a lawsuit for his actions during the investigation. Proving that he wasn’t so entitled was a tall task, Davis pointed out, citing a quote from case law that such immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”

What Davis ultimately found was that, while Rodgers certainly showed some bias in the handling of his investigation, given what he knew at the time he detained Banks on April 14, 2011, and secured search warrants in the case, the FDLE investigator was acting within his duties and had probable cause to believe that a homicide may have been committed.

Some of what he is believed to have known was listed by Davis in a lengthy footnote on page 10 of the order, and includes that Banks and O’Connell had been fighting the night she died, that she was packing to leave him, that two neighbors reported hearing a woman scream “help” followed by two gunshots, that an expert had determined that homicide was more probable than suicide, and that that expert’s opinion had persuaded a medical examiner to consider changing the manner of death from suicide to homicide.

“Even in the light most favorable to the Deputy Banks, the record, considered in its entirety, reflects a thoughtful examination of difficult facts and circumstances inconsistent with the invidious bias Deputy Banks would have the Court find,” Davis wrote. “Certainly Agent Rodgers’ investigation was imperfect, but that does not render his actions unconstitutional. Moreover, the presence of any bias does not undercut the clear existence of probable cause in this case.”

“While Deputy Banks has sufficiently convinced the Court of Agent Rodgers’ bias, neither the arguments nor questions of fact considered in their totality persuade the Court that there has been a reckless disregard for the truth or that there is operative an animus so invidious that the truth cannot be found,” the order continues. “Rather, the Court finds that a reasonable officer from the facts known at the time of Deputy Banks’ detention would have probable cause for homicide.”

Rodgers’ attorney William Sheppard told The Record on Tuesday that Davis’ ruling was what he anticipated because it was in keeping with the law.

“We are pleased,” he said, “not surprised in the least.”

What he didn’t understand, he said, was the reason for the lawsuit in the first place.

“I don’t think the motivation was money,” he said. “I am not sure what the motivation was.”

He brushed off the judge’s mention of “bias” in his client’s investigation and said he expects law enforcement officers do carry bias in their work.

“If you don’t suspect people you probably aren’t going to convict them, are you?” he said.

The investigation Sheppard took issue with was the initial one done by the Sheriff’s Office.


“It wasn’t an investigation, it was a fumble,” Sheppard said. “Exclamation point.”

Davis’ Friday order also denied Banks’ attorney Mac McLeod’s motion, filed in March 2017, to strike Rodgers’ pleadings and defenses and enter a default judgement against Rodgers.

It was the denial of that motion, which alleges that Rodgers perjured himself in the proceedings, that McLeod said Tuesday was as disappointing as the summary judgement dismissing the case.

“That that went unsanctioned is what bothered us,” he said.

As for motivation, McLeod maintains that Rodgers lied in pursuing prosecution of Banks, that doing so was “purposeful,” and that Banks’ life was “turned upside down” by Rodgers’ conduct. Had the decision gone the other way, he said, Banks would have been entitled to damages paid from a state officers’ fund.

“We’re obviously extremely disappointed,” McLeod said. “We believe there were disputed issues and [the case] should have proceeded to a jury.”

They have 30 days to file an appeal, McLeod said, adding that he and others will be reviewing that possibility in the next five to 10 days.


Comments



Jennifer Oconnell
  • Jennifer Oconnell
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You thought the Judge would be impressed by the Sheriffs 153 page rememdial fairytale.
That thing had more wholes in it than Swiss cheese.
Probably wasn’t worth all the anxiety and veins popping out of his head , yelling incessantly & running around like a chicken with no head.

At least now Banks and Shoar can use those coarse 153 pages as toilet paper to wipe themselves after hearing the Judges ruling.
There’s also no consolation in the complaint officer (at the time) Scott O’Connell filed against Banks prior to FDLE involvement. Citing several concerning issues. A document that can be requested via a simple public records request.

Don’t get me started on bias. The Sheriffs office interviewed Banks on scene, in a car, and he spoke to officers and his parents prior. No canvassing. Just a bunch of cops standing in a yard with their own bias, in less than 3 hours, those geniuses say it was a suicide. Denying our family an outside investigation as requested that night on scene. Then have the audacity to spread their non investigative bias, I mean findings ,with Dr Hobin.

William Sheppard said it best.

If you don’t suspect people you probably aren’t going to convict them, are you? Jeremy was never a suspect, by the Sheriffs Office. The judge, points out in a 22 page ruling ,Rodgers had probable cause for Homicide.

Take it with sugar if it will help you swallow it better.

Don’t sit there and say Banks life was turned upside down, when Michelle is buried in the dirt. All these years, probable cause for Homicide did exist because others did a job the St Johns County Sheriffs Office failed to do.« less
  • 2 days ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
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@Jennifer Oconnell Amen!
  • 2 days ago
Patty Oconnell
  • Patty Oconnell
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YOU GOT THAT RIGHT AND EVERYBODY KNOWS THE TRUTH
  • 2 days ago
Alessa Adamo
  • Alessa Adamo
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@Jennifer Oconnell thankfully, there is no statute of limitations for murder. Maybe someday justice for your family will finally be realized.
  • 11 hours ago
Patty Oconnell
  • Patty Oconnell
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Truly this newspaper is sharing the Truth.
Thank you for your indepth coverage.
May Justice Prevail.
Justice For All
  • 2 days ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
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@Patty Oconnell The truth shall set us free.
  • 2 days ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
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1. The New York Times article began by calling this "a stinging rebuke" to one of Florida's most powerful Sheriffs.
2. No comment from Sheriff DAVID SHOAR, who legally changed his name from "HOAR" in 1994. Why not interview SHOAR/HOAR?
3. SHOAR said he would "stake his 33 year career" on BANKS' inncocence and he used SJSO money to power false documents provided to federal agents, lobbying Record for coverage. Judge Davis agrees with Judge Tinlin: there was probable cause.
4. When will JEREMY BANKS be investigated by a grand jury?
5. The New York Times article by Walt Bogdanich stated:

"In a stinging rebuke to one of Florida’s most influential sheriffs, a federal judge found that a state law enforcement official had probable cause to believe that one of the sheriff’s deputies had fatally shot his girlfriend as she was preparing to leave him.
The sheriff, David B. Shoar of St. Johns County, had waged a yearslong campaign to convince the public that Rusty Rodgers, an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, had violated the rights of the deputy, Jeremy Banks, during the state’s reinvestigation of the shooting, originally ruled a suicide by the sheriff more than seven years ago.
The judge, Brian J. Davis, on Friday dismissed a lengthy civil case filed by Deputy Banks, with strong support from the sheriff, accusing Agent Rodgers of, among other things, coaching witnesses and filing false and misleading information to a state court in support of his request to search the deputy’s property.
In the order tossing out the lawsuit, the judge concluded, “Even in the light most favorable to the Deputy Banks, the record, considered in its entirety, reflects a thoughtful examination of difficult facts and circumstances.”
(continued)« less
  • 2 days ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
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New York Times article, continued:

the sheriff had botched the case with missteps that included failing to collect important evidence at the crime scene. Agent Rodgers also uncovered evidence that appeared to contradict Deputy Banks’s account of how Ms. O’Connell had died.
The shooting and the sheriff’s attempts to discredit Agent Rodgers were the subject of two New York Times investigations as well as a documentary by the PBS program “Frontline.”
The Times, after reviewing thousands of pages of investigative files and legal documents, reported in June that Sheriff Shoar’s attacks on Agent Rodgers were based largely on unsupported allegations and innuendo.
The judge’s order on Friday tracked closely with what The Times had found. The court ruled that many of Deputy Banks’s claims were argumentative and unsupported in the more than 3,000 pages of documents in the case record.
Newsletter Sign UpContinue reading the main story
According to Deputy Banks’s account, he and Ms. O’Connell were home alone late one night in September 2010 when she began packing her things to leave. Although they had argued that evening while driving back to the house they shared, he said, they did not argue once they were home.
Yet Agent Rodgers found two neighbors who said they had heard a woman screaming for help before the sound of gunshots. The sheriff’s officers had not bothered to interview neighbors, or Ms. O’Connell’s family, before declaring the death a suicide.
Sheriff Shoar repeatedly claimed that Ms. O’Connell had been suicidal, but Judge Davis noted that “the vast majority, if not all of Ms. O’Connell’s family members and friends reported she was in good mental health, not likely to commit suicide, and was looking forward to the future.”« less
  • 2 days ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
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New York Times article, concluded:
Sheriff Shoar has not retreated from his conclusion of suicide, citing the findings of two state medical examiners. A third pathologist, Dr. William R. Anderson, later hired by the family, concluded that Ms. O’Connell had died from a gunshot “inflicted by another.” After exhuming the body, Dr. Anderson — himself a former state medical examiner — discovered that Ms. O’Connell had a cracked jaw, a fact that had not been noted by the first two medical examiners.
At the time, Sheriff Shoar issued a statement calling the exhumation “reprehensible” and accusing Ms. O’Connell’s mother of “molesting” the body by removing it from its “place of rest.”
A lawyer for Agent Rodgers, William J. Sheppard, said on Monday that the judge’s order was “as expected, because Agent Rodgers did nothing but his job in an efficient and honorable way, as he has done for the past 30-plus years.”
In an email, Deputy Banks’s lawyer, Mac McLeod, expressed disappointment in the judgment and said they would consider an appeal. “We respect the efforts of the court and certainly will analyze the order in great detail as we move forward,” he said.
Sheriff Shoar did not immediately respond to a request for comment.« less
  • 2 days ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
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Who paid McLeod's fees and expenses?
  • 2 days ago
Michael Gold
  • Michael Gold
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@Edward Adelbert Slavin
"They have 30 days to file an appeal, McLeod said, adding that he and others will be reviewing that possibility in the next five to 10 days."

When McLeod says "he and others will be reviewing that possibility", who do YOU think "others" is?
  • 2 days ago
Edward Adelbert Slavin
  • Edward Adelbert Slavin
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@Michael Gold Litigation funders? Shoar?
  • 2 days ago
Patty Oconnell
  • Patty Oconnell
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Attorney Matt Cline the SJSO Attorney for Sheriff Shoar...
Truth Goes Marching On.
Grapes of Wrath next.
  • 1 day ago




4 comments:

Patty Oconnell said...

This is so truthful.
Shoar must be hurting
The Truth Hurts when you deliberately spread Lies and the press tells all.

Warren Celli said...

The New York Slimes has a long history of good cop bad cop identity ambivalence. In the past twenty plus years it has been re-positioned by the fantasy makers at the top as 'left' leaning.

Currently it is playing the good cop role and championing the old Vanilla Greed for Profit Evilism (the old self anointed elite policy) against the newer more Pernicious Greed for Destruction Xtrevilism (the current controlling xtrevilist policy). Alas, too little too late; still stuck in pretend mode it is unable to blow the whistle on its own evil failings for fear of exposing its past transgressions. So it stays focused on victim EFFECTS and does not discuss the CAUSATIVE corrupt system and its morphing. A corrupt system morphing that scum bag Trump (who is playing the perpetual conflict in the masses xtrevilist policy game, and playing it well) is only to happy to exploit.

The article (Walt Bogdanich) missed a great opportunity to discuss that fascist leaning xtrevilist policy here in Saint Augustine by drawing attention to the latest city commission charade, where, in an obscenely immoral and transparently orchestrated crap show, the city gangsters, in unison with the city merchants, stripped more Civil Rights from the homeless population that THEY have created. These are the same pigs that elected scum bag Shoar. Connect the dots Walt!

Yes Walt, by studiously avoiding the CAUSE and staying focused on the EFFECTS (which in its own right is a form of victim bashing), you missed a wonderful opportunity to discuss the real cause.

The real CAUSE: Trickle down human spirit suppressing policy and law intentionally ordered by crap head pig billionaires (ALL), and made by and enforced by sell out politicians and law enforcement. If you want peace on earth put the pig billionaires that The New York Slimes shills for, and their subservient lackeys, in institutions for study and reprogramming. The world will be more peaceful and sane when the likes of Warren Buffet, Dick Chaney and George Bush are in restraints and institutionalized.

"a case study"...

http://fountainofbaloney.com/fbarticles/fountainofbaloneyrelaunch.html

Anonymous said...

Warren,

How dare you intrude on this issue with your inane remarks...more so when you must have noted that Ms. Oconnell commented before you. shut up Warren!

With that said...my view on the article - what does it say about St Johns County that Shoar won by a landslide...sad group here and my heart goes out to the O'connell family...hopefully justice will be served to you soon!

Warren Celli said...

Inane and righteous anonymous,

I did not see Patty's comments when I began preparing mine which I do not always produce instantaneously. In addition comments are posted when the moderator gets to them, also not an instantaneous process.

If I did see them I might have said that Shoar is not really hurting. He is a psychopath without conscience. Patty projects her good empathy on a creep that has none.

I stand by my comments as to the real cause. The scam 'rule of law' is a justice denying farce that is owned and controlled by the policy makers at the top. Justice at this point — over seven years out — is unattainable, it has been too long delayed in great part by these articles that in their essence validate and legitimize the scam 'just us' system and do not as I said go for the real perps that pay the salaries of the muzzled by pay check allegiance lap dog press. They keep everyone, like yourself, in the eternal hopey changey pretend zone.

If you want any semblance of justice — and at this point it would be more retribution or vengeance — which is still a laudable goal, you are going to have to get your sorry pretend ass out on the streets and Boycott.

All these cretins understand is the language of the kaching of a cash register.

http://saintaugdog.com/sadissues/issue1/1page1sad.html