Ocala, Florida — Charges have been dropped against the Ocala couple accused of “resisting arrest” at an alleged open house party that took place on April 5, 2014.
Before the state was able to file its final paperwork, Christopher Dillingham, attorney for Jason and Stacey Pomales, filed three (c)(4)motions to dismiss all counts of “resisting arrest” on behalf of the married couple.
It all started when Corporal Lisa Azure and Deputy Thomas Newbanks responded to the 15600 block of SW 16th Avenue, in reference to a complaint about a large party.
According to Captain Pistarelli of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Azure got on her PA system and announced that people at the party needed to move their vehicles that were obstructing traffic in the roadway, at which time deputies said Jason Pomales, 28, emerged from the crowed and began shouting, “you don’t have to do what they say, you don’t have to move your cars.”
Deputies indicated that Pomales told them (the deputies) to get off of the property – because it is private property – and they didn’t have a lawful right to be there.
Dillingham said Deputy Azure, as seen in the video, replied “I can do what I want when I want.”
“Deputy Azure is grossly mistaken…constitutional law as well as case law prevents her from doing whatever she feels like doing,” said Dillingham.
Dillingham said this is one of the worst cases he has seen for violation of the First Amendment.
“The Marion County Sheriff’s Office clearly does not know constitutional law and allows their deputies to violate Marion County citizens rights,” said Dillingham.
In a previous interview, Gregg Jerald, general counsel for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said, “Neither of the defendants were arrested for video recording as they claim.”Adding, “Both defendants were impeding on an investigation and that’s the bottom line.”
“Jason was exercising his right to freedom of speech, Azure essentially arrested him because he wouldn’t ‘shut-up.’ There was no credible threat of violence, Jason never acted in a violent manner and he certainly did not ‘resist arrest.’ Disagreeing or questioning a law enforcement officer is not resisting arrest,” said Dillingham. “Not one deputy that was on the scene the night Jason and Stacey were arrested reported any violence in their reports.”
After Jason was cuffed and placed in the car, Azure continued to escalate the situation said Dillingham.
Stacey, who was recording the arrest on a cell phone, began asking why her husband was being arrested. After placing Jason in the back of a patrol car, Azure is heard saying “Who’s next? Who’s next? This camera does not scare us. Who’s next to go to jail?”
“The moment Azure re-approached Stacey instead of leaving the scene, she became the aggressor by choosing to escalate instead of de-escalate the situation,” said Dillingham. “More than a handful of witnesses have come forward and will testify that Azure – at one point- was standing in the road daring people to come into the street so she could arrest them, which is not seen in the video.”
According to the arrest affidavit, Stacey was “yelling and screaming” at deputies, however, Dillingham says she did not raise her voice at all. He said Stacey can be heard in the video telling party goers to stay back.
“If anything, Stacey was the voice of reason in the situation,” said Dillingham. “This situation is known as ‘contempt by cop,’ but unfortunately for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office a law enforcement officer cannot not legally arrest someone for ‘resisting arrest’ simply because the officer does not like what the other person has to say or did not stand in a spot approved by deputies.” Adding, “Resisting arrest or obstruction is a charge law enforcement use when they do not have any real evidence, but decide they want to make an arrest just to prove a point.”
Dillingham went on to say, “If the crowd had been cheering for Azure, no one would have been arrested.”
According to reports, 60 percent of all “resisting arrest” cases end in favor of the defendant. Most officers have not provided enough evidence to present their case, and often times the cases are thrown out before they even reach the court room. A South Florida judge said the key is knowing your rights. Also, never accept a plea deal for “resisting arrest,” insist on a jury trial he said.
Dillingham said his clients will be seeking an injunction declaring the Florida law concerning “resisting arrest without violence” unconstitutional because it grants law enforcement officers “unfettered discretion.”
In a previous interview, Chief Fred LaTorre with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said, “ There are some things that Deputy Azure, as well as other deputies said in the video that were not appropriate and those issues are being addressed. If one of our deputies does something wrong we will correct it.”
“This case goes far beyond Azure’s actions in the video. After the Pomales’ were arrested, Azure changed her Facebook profile picture to their mug shots and called them monsters. Not only did Azure’s actions violate law enforcement code of ethics – it shows malice on her part,” said Dillingham.
On Tuesday, June 10, 2014, Dillingham filed two separate civil rights lawsuits against the Marion County Sheriff’s Office as well as the deputies involved. He said there is far more damaging evidence against Azure and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office that will come out in trial.
“I have requested all dash cam videos and any other evidence related to this case. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has until June 15, 2014 to comply with my request,”Dillingham said.
“Arresting citizens for the ‘cover all’ charge of resisting arrest or obstruction is “coming to a head” in Florida. Marion County residents need to know their rights and hold law enforcement accountable,” said Dillingham. “I am sure Marion County Residents do not appreciate their constitutional rights being violated. They are being violated on a large scale, and not just the rights of those with criminal records, but also law abiding citizens.”
Dillingham said, “Law enforcement officers need to realize they work for the people and they are not above the law. I completely understand the job is stressful and dangerous, however, we do not live in a police state. We are protected by the constitution and all citizens have the legal right to question law enforcement, video record law enforcement, refuse to answer questions and even throw them off of your property if you are not suspected of committing a crime.”
“I am not happy with the way the Marion County Sheriff’s Office has handled this case and residents of Marion County should not be either,” said Dillingham. “I did not want it to come to this. In the beginning the Pomales’ just wanted an apology, but now, in light of all the evidence, this is the only way law enforcement will be exposed.”
Adding, “The Marion County Sheriff’s Office had their chance to speak, now my clients will have theirs.”
[Updated June 12, 2014 at 9:48 p.m.]