Steve Cappas has become the poster boy of what a good investigator doesn’t look like. What is really disturbing is that Cappas is an average Joe in this agency. He is among others just like him. He is the guy that takes orders well and doesn’t, for a second, question authority. A dutiful soldier. But in that case, is that what is needed? Is it ok for someone to break the law if a commanding officer directs them to do so? No it isn’t but most try to assert the Nuremberg Defense, I was just following orders. I’m sure Cappas will be using that himself. The fact remains, law enforcement officers are supposed to follow laws, procedures & protocol for EVERYONE’S protection, not just their own. Cappas’s deviation from procedure and policy exposes, not only himself, to liability but the agency as well. Not to mention the fact that failing to properly handle/store evidence could affect a person’s liberty and freedom can be taken. That is the most crucial part.
In this case, two deputies rolled the dice on this evidence that was not properly handled and stored; one was able to get away with molesting a child because of it and one was found guilty, in the absence of evidence. That is paradox within itself. But both of their trials will be moot due to the mishandling of evidence. The “what-if’s” will propel criminal and civil cases alike back in front of a judge and jury. As they should, in this case. Morgan’s crew did whatever they wanted. Procedure is overrated to them. Due process protection is not important to them. The law is of no consequence.
Steve Cappas was worried about me making his sworn testimony free for people to see and to shine a light on randomly applied laws and selective enforcement of policies. His words, though true, are going to be the catalyst for next phase of the ECSO. The paradigm has shifted. Evidence has been lackadaisically handled and destroyed in many cases. Records, in particular, are the biggest casualties of this regime. For example, public records have been destroyed in regards to one unsworn employee specifically. This employee became a citizen in 2011. The problem is this person has been in the US for more than 20+ years illegally. With false papers, this employee went to school, has bought property, married and worked. Because of that, the citizenship granted in 2011 is void, because this person is guilty of fraud, identity theft, larceny by trick. These felonious acts will invalidate citizenship. When this came to Morgan’s attention, he had it investigated and that indeed was the case. What did he do next? Nothing. He didn’t want anything negative to happen to the employee, so he let this criminal slide. That is a violation of his oath and Florida law, as he is aiding this person. Then Morgan wanted the records destroyed. To date, this person is a well insulated employee at the ECSO. Your tax dollars at work.
Getting back to the evidence. The procedure’s violated by both these case is excerpted in the passage below.
High value items/narcotics: Submitting officers/crime scene technicians must separate items including, but not limited to, narcotics, firearms, jewelry, and currency so that it will be submitted separately from all other evidence items and where possible, will be identified with individual defendants or owners. All high value items will be submitted with NO unnecessary delay. [CFA 36.01 E]
Release and Disposal of Property/ Evidence [CFA 36.01 G]
Property or evidence may be released from the Evidence Unit with the authorization of certain individuals under certain conditions. The Evidence Unit is responsible for ensuring that prior to the release, disposal or destruction of property that such property can be legally possessed by the person to whom it is to be released, and that there are no pending court orders prevent the release, disposal or destruction of the property.
Persons who may authorize the release of property:
- Submitting officer;
- An investigator assigned to the case;
- Officers authorized by the investigator assigned to the case;
- Supervisor of the submitting officer or Investigator assigned the case;
- In cases where the submitting officer and/or investigator is no longer employed with the Sheriff’s Office:
- Operations Division OIC;
- Investigation Division OIC/AOIC;
- Investigations Section OIC/AOIC;
- Forensic Services Section Supervisor;
- Evidence Unit Supervisor;
- Chief Deputy; and
In cases where the submitting officer and/or investigator was from another agency and is no longer employed with said agency, release may be authorized by the: [CFA 36.01 G]
- A command level supervisor for the submitting agency (in writing);
- Forensic Services Supervisor;
- Evidence Unit Supervisor;
- Investigation Section OIC/AOIC;
- Investigations Division OIC/AOIC;
- Chief Deputy; and
Property or evidence may be released for the following reasons:
- Return to the owner;
- Return to the agent: As in the situation where the victim has been reimbursed by an insurance company and the proper documentation has been filed with the Criminal Records Section by the insurance carrier;
- Evidence processing, laboratory examination, and/or other investigative purpose;
- Court presentation, evidence review related to discovery or case preparation, or in compliance with other court order;
- Disposal of unclaimed evidence, lost or abandoned property; or,
- Disposal or destruction of contraband property.
- Disposal through a settlement or Final Order pursuant to Florida’s Contraband Forfeiture Act.
All transfers in the chain of custody will be recorded on ALL evidence cards to include, but not limited to, the following:
- a) Date and time of transfer; [CFA 35.02 A]
- b) Receiving person’s name and authority; and [CFA 35.02 B]
- c) Reason for transfer. [CFA 35.02 C]
Each evidence transfer, whether by evidence card, transfer form or other means, will be documented with the following:
- Date/time & method of transfer; [CFA 35.02 A]
- Receiving person’s name/responsibility; [CFA 35.02 B]
- Reason of transfer; [CFA 35.02 C]
- Name/location/lab and synopsis of events; [CFA 35.02 D]
- Date/time received in lab; and [CFA 35.02 E]
- Name/signature of person in lab receiving the evidence. [CFA 35.02 F]
If any of these things had happened, we would not be talking about either case now. But we are and some criminals go unpunished . How do I know that evidence has been destroyed? The employee mentioned above is still in this country and still employed by Morgan. If the evidence of this employee’s citizenship were properly handled, this would be an empty seat in his office. However, the employee is there and that is proof that documented crimes and evidence has been destroyed.