ECSO Litmus Test

EDITORIAL: I want to acknowledge the handling of a serious matter, a little less than 2 weeks ago. My son, who lives in Pensacola, was missing and possibly endangered. I was apprehensive about involving ECSO due to my history with the leadership. However, Chip Simmons, Investigator Lee and Sgt Calogero were fantastic. My son is fine, but I was a wreck. I will never forget what they did.

Having said that, I am still compelled to post on issues I believe are public worthy regarding the agency. Chip’s personnel decisions and actions or inactions, still will ripple through history. I will not pull punches on this matter, because someone should.

Now that the ball is in Chip Simmons’s court, we will all be able to see if he is more of the same (ie Morgan) or whether he will turn the agency around as is hoped. It appears he is riding the fence on the most recent morally bankrupt employee, David Craig. Craig has recently been on administrative leave. It is alleged he exposed himself to a little girl. Can’t confirm for sure but knowing Craig’s history, this certainly fits the pattern of inappropriate actions he has had in the past.

Right after Craig was hired in January of 2009, he immediately began abusing the trust that should be associated with working for a law enforcement agency.

To a layperson, this seems like a string of misdeeds that should not be punished by anything less than termination. Destroying evidence? Fake badge? Interfering with Investigation? Dissemination of official personnel records by someone without the authority to access those records legitimately?

In early 2015, I received an email from a source about Craig:

Hey Jimmie, just thought of something when I saw your comment about chatting with David Craig on Facebook.  Are you aware that David was a Reserve Deputy but lost his certificate for policy violations?  And, that he contributed a ton of his BLAB tv show time to Morgan during his first campaign and some during the second campaign?  Morgan created a job for Craig  with a starting salary roughly $10,000 over what a starting deputy makes.  I started getting complaints on Craig from Investigations in regards to his interfering with several investigations.  The Captain of Investigations at the time, sent me a letter asking me to stop Craig’s getting involved before he blew a case.  After several other complaints, one from his immediate supervisor, another Investigator and a complaint about Craig impersonating a law enforcement officer, I went to Morgan.  Morgan refused to involve himself in Craig’s situation, other than to tell me to just warn him to be careful.  I eventually wrote Craig up and warned him that if he continued to talk to witnesses, take pictures of suspects homes, and other such activities he could be arrested.  Craig also has a Domestic Violence past and I’m correct he is not allowed to carry a firearm but does and Morgan knows this.  Craig acted as a Bodyguard for Morgan during his election campaigns and carried a gun on him then.  

Since then, I have been approached by witnesses who claimed that Craig was banned from the Creighton Road Walmart for urinating in public, and thus exposing himself to shoppers. Somehow or another, even after PPD was on the scene, Morgan was notified and got the PPD to not issue a report. The witnesses heard the call on the scanner and showed up to witness firsthand the covering up of this offense. There is no report or any paper trail on this other than the witnesses, which doesn’t surprise anyone.

I am also hoping to see Chip step up to deal with Steve Cappas. The man confessed to tampering with evidence in the Joe Zarzaur case for the Rodgers twins. Lest we forget.

And Mike Gilmore. He failed to act on information regarding a missing child. Let a lead sit in a file for 2 years, knowing the witness saw the girl in a sex trafficking setting. Not even a footnote in his file.

There are so many issues with personnel. If Chip doesn’t step up and eradicate the vermin, he is just as bad as that vermin. One bad apple ruins the whole bunch, right? What about 3-4 bad apples?

Pattern of Evidence Mishandling

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]

527.5

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
  • Sheriff.

 

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
  • Sheriff

 

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.