Should 6 yr old PBSO case be reopened after new info surfaces about deputy who killed colleagues?
Experts weigh in
6:47 PM, Jan 8, 2014
The recently released reports are now fueling many questions.
"If it wasn't given to the State Attorney's office years ago, I guess the question is why, it's a legitimate question" said criminal defense attorney and NewsChannel 5 legal analyst, Michelle Suskauer.
Suskauer is referring to never before seen draft reports recently obtained by the Contact 5 Investigators after a brief court battle with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's office. The reports detail how the the Palm Beach County Sheriff's own top traffic homicide investigator, Troy Snelgrove, initially, recommended criminal charges be filed against K-9 Corporal Greg Fernandez.
He's the Palm Beach County Sheriff's deputy who, investigators determined, was traveling 111 miles per hour the night he struck and killed colleagues Jonathan Wallace and Donta Manuel. Wallace and Manuel were outside their patrol cars trying to stop a car thief in Pahokee more than 6 years ago.
But for reasons still unknown to NewsChannel 5, Snelgrove's recommendations that concluded with how Fernandez, "drove his vehicle in a willful and wanton reckless manner with disregard for the safety of passengers on the roadway," never made it into the sheriff's final, public report sent to then State Attorney, Barry Krischer, for review. Krischer, after reviewing the case, decided not to pursue charges.
The Sheriff's office has not responded to multiple requests for answers from the Contact 5 Investigators.
"I would love to be a fly on the wall and know by what process in the sheriff's office did this just happen to get pulled out and deleted from the report," said Dr. George Kirkham, a criminology and police standards expert. He says a recommendation like this can carry a lot of weight when it comes to deciding whether to prosecute.
"It's not just an opinion. It's an opinion based on this investigator's analysis. He is being objective and analytic and simply stating the facts, just the facts ma'am that facts support these conclusions that there was a serious violation of state law."
As a result, Kirkham says, now knowing that a recommendation was made but removed from the final report should be enough for another review.
"I would say absolutely, this case needs to be reopened," he said.
NewsChannel 5 legal analyst Michele Suskauer also agrees while the ultimate decision always rests with the State Attorney, new information like this might be reason enough to take a second look.
"I think, probably in their due diligence, they may review this case. A page that has information regarding a recommendation and a recommendation to have charges filed against a Deputy because of willful, wanton and reckless behavior that was not included in a report that was presented to a prior state attorney's office, you would think that raises questions."
On Tuesday, State Attorney Dave Aronberg will meet with the families of Deputies Jonathan Wallace and Donta Manuel.
While the deadline has passed for the families to file a civil lawsuit there is no statute of limitations or time limit that applies to the criminal side of this case.
So, the State Attorney could decide to reopen or not reopen this case, send it to a grand jury to decide or have a special, independent State Attorney review the case.
The State Attorney is not commenting until after next Tuesday's meeting with the families.