State Attorney Won't Reopen Questionable Investigation Unless Questionable Law Enforcement Agencies Provide The Evidence

from the please-take-another-look-at-our-wrongdoing,-said-no-agency-everq dept

In May 2012, Seth Adams pulled into the parking lot of the gardening store his family owned. A few minutes later, he was dead, shot by an undercover cop who had been sitting in an unmarked vehicle in the store’s parking lot. The officer, Michael Custer, claimed Adams was “drunk and belligerent” and that he “feared for his life.” He also claimed Adams reached into the cab of his pickup, presumably to grab a weapon, and that’s when he opened fire.

It was clear from the beginning that the ensuing investigation would be nothing more than ornamental. Adams’ “guilt” and the officer’s “innocence” had been predetermined.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw made it clear from the start that he had no intention of investigating the incident impartially. Referring to Adams, Bradshaw at one point told local media, “Why he decided to assault the deputy? We may never know that.” When the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) began a state investigation, Bradshaw added that he was confident the results would “verify exactly what I thought from the beginning.”

And the Sheriff’s Department began taking steps to ensure the investigation wouldn’t have any other outcome. Police seized surveillance video captured by the store’s cameras and then claimed no recording of the incident existed. Forensic evidence suggesting Custer’s narrative was flawed was produced (a trail of blood beginning at the back of the pickup, rather than by the cab where Custer claimed Adams was reaching for a weapon), but the officer was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.

This led to a lawsuit filed by Adams’ family. Nearly two years later, and the obstruction of justice still hasn’t stopped. New evidence has been obtained by the family’s lawyer, but the state’s attorney isn’t interested in re-opening the closed FDLE investigation The new information is a scathing Sheriff’s Office review of Sgt. Michael Custer, who was deemed incapable of “making sound decisions under pressure.” Despite this review, Custer was allowed to retain control of an elite tactical unit.

This review was never turned over to the FDLE by the Sheriff’s office.

“An FDLE investigator even asked for Custer’s employee evaluations but was told they didn’t exist.”

The family’s attorney also claims the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office ignored the contradictory blood trail evidence from the forensics investigation when performing its own investigation into the incident. This report, as potentially damning as it is, has just had its usefulness neutered by the state attorney’s office.

“First thing I want to make clear on with the Seth Adams investigation is that was closed out during a prior administration,” said State Attorney for the 15th Judicial Court, Dave Aronberg who was elected to the post in November, 2012.

So, there will no reopening of a flawed investigation in which the law enforcement agency being investigated hid information from investigators. That’s the level of accountability State Attorney Aronberg is comfortable with. Oh, but it could be reopened, provided any new information comes from an Aronberg-approved source — like the same agency that obstructed the original investigation.

State Attorney Aronberg and Anderson didn’t say much more during the Q & A except that if new evidence comes into their office they could re-open the case.

Any new evidence would have to come from a law enforcement agency, not an attorney working a civil case.

Which, in any language, is bullshit. Aronberg will only look into things if cops ask him to, not civilians. Not for nothing has the idea been floated that the job of prosecuting police misconduct be turned over public defenders, rather than offices like Aronberg’s, where the relationship might be a bit too cozy. Those that are supposed to be a key part of accountability are, in actuality, often just an escape route for abusive law enforcement officers. Whatever Aronberg thinks he’s doing with this decision, it certainly can’t be considered to be part of his job description.

Why isn’t the state’s attorney’s office investigating the sheriff’s department for reportedly lying about the existence of Custer’s employee evaluations? And why did FDLE investigators take the department at its word that those evaluations didn’t exist? An investigator for the Adams family was able to obtain them through an open-records request. Shouldn’t a state agency charged with investigating police shootings be a bit more skeptical of the targets of its investigations?

These are all questions Aronberg doesn’t want to answer, so he’s conveniently ensured he’ll never be asked these questions again. And the Sheriff’s Department that obstructed a state investigation will continue to employ an officer who’s demonstrated he’s a danger to himself and others and face no consequences for impeding an investigation by a state agency.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “State Attorney Won't Reopen Questionable Investigation Unless Questionable Law Enforcement Agencies Provide The Evidence”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Another one bites the dust. Unfortunately Americans won’t give a rat’s arse until they come a kicking down their door, and then it will be to late. Welcome to the Fourth Reich.

Zonker says:

Re: Re: Re:

I am a “law and order” type, and I want criminal officers like Michael Custer, Daniel Pantaleo, Darren Wilson, and their accomplices to be found guilty of the crimes they commit and face the maximum sentence for their crimes under the law, up to and including capital punishment when warranted. It infuriates me to no end that this is not happening as it results in nothing but lawlessness and chaos.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I see it a little differently myself. I’m constantly disgusted by what the police, and those that support them(indirectly and directly) do and say, but at this point nothing they do surprises me.

If a story came out that police conducted a unannounced live-fire exercise in an orphanage(and only injured five children), and when called out on it claimed that nothing they did was wrong in any way, while I would be disgusted at their actions, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least, because that’s the sort of thing I expect from the police at this point: Blatant disregard for the laws and the lives of those around them, and complete and utter cowardice when faced with even the slightest potential threat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Much of the problem has to do with police training. When cops have it constantly drilled into them that every person they interact with just might be the one who shoots them dead, and concentrate training on honing use-of-force skils such as how to lethally shoot people, rather than developing proper social skills (which does not include screaming obscenities) that would have diffused a bad situation before it started. Police often train on video simulators in which the object of the “game” is to fatally shoot a person before he or she can draw, aim, and fire a gun. So it’s no wonder that they’re always on a hair trigger alert and so quick to kill people who so much as sneeze.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just like the Snowden releases shined a light on all the spying being done against it’s citizens, Ferguson started the public photos of police in action, keeping track of how many people the police kill, and the entire corruption behind giving police a carte blanche over crimes committed on duty.

This will continue to expose the rotten core of our legal system. It will either be addressed or if no remedy is made, it will become fodder for a revolution if no other method is made to address this rotten system.

Anonymous Coward says:

until the people of America stand together and get the Police run country back to the days of safety, nothing will change. it is far too easy today to get shot, even killed, let alone just arrested for doing absolutely nothing wrong, yet situations like this are happening with more and more frequency. police officers seem to be purposefully staking out somewhere with nothing else on their minds but to shoot someone, just for the hell of it! and when you get the head of the police doing nothing to verify the incident, backing the officer(s) involved to the hilt, things have gotten almost so bad as to never be repairable!
be careful people, the same situation that existed in Europe 70 years ago is fast coming to the USA! let’s hope the way to stop it isn’t the same as was needed then!

tenfiftyfive says:

Has anyone here bothered to read the reports before passing judgment on partial information? Of *course* a family is going to want more, because no investigation that doesn’t come out in their favor will be thorough enough.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The problem isn’t “I’m not doing a new investigation.” The problem is “I’m not doing a new investigation unless law enforcement give me more evidence.” This is especially problematic given said agency is accused of obstructing justice.
Personally, if he said, “The case is done, move on,” while less than ideal, I would find it would be far less disturbing than this.

Cal says:

Why not do a (REAL) Grand Jury Investigation into State Attorney Aronberg, and Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw? They are both governmental employees.

This is how the People’s Grand Jury per the Bill of Rights is supposed to operate.

“The grand jury is mentioned in the Bill of Rights, but not in the body of the Constitution. It has not been textually assigned, therefore, to any of the branches described in the first three Articles. It is a constitutional fixture in its own right. In fact the whole theory of its function is that it belongs to no branch of the institutional government, serving as a kind of buffer or referee between the Government and the people”.

“Thus, citizens have the unbridled right to empanel their own grand juries and present “True Bills” of indictment to a court, which is then required to commence a criminal proceeding. Our Founding Fathers presciently thereby created a “buffer” the people may rely upon for justice, when public officials, including judges, criminally violate the law.” (Misbehavior)

“The grand jury is an institution separate from the courts, over whose functioning the courts do not preside, we think it clear that, as a general matter at least, no such “supervisory” judicial authority exists. The “common law” of the Fifth Amendment demands a traditional functioning grand jury.”

“Although the grand jury normally operates, of course, in the courthouse and under judicial auspices, its institutional relationship with the judicial branch has traditionally been, so to speak, at arm’s length. Judges’ direct involvement in the functioning of the grand jury has generally been confined to the constitutive one of calling the grand jurors together and administering their oaths of office. The grand jury’s functional independence from the judicial branch is evident both in the scope of its power to investigate criminal wrongdoing, and in the manner in which that power is exercised.”

“The grand jury ‘can investigate merely on suspicion that the law is being violated, or even because it wants assurance that it is not.’ It need not identify the offender it suspects, or even “the precise nature of the offense” it is investigating. The grand jury requires no authorization from its constituting court to initiate an investigation, nor does the prosecutor require leave of court to seek a grand jury indictment. And in its day-to-day functioning, the grand jury generally operates without the interference of a presiding judge. It swears in its own witnesses and deliberates in total secrecy.”

“Recognizing this tradition of independence, we have said the 5th Amendment’s constitutional guarantee presupposes an investigative body ‘acting independently of either prosecuting attorney or judge”

“Given the grand jury’s operational separateness from its constituting court, it should come as no surprise that we have been reluctant to invoke the judicial supervisory power as a basis for prescribing modes of grand jury procedure. Over the years, we have received many requests to exercise supervision over the grand jury’s evidence-taking process, but we have refused them all. “it would run counter to the whole history of the grand jury institution” to permit an indictment to be challenged “on the ground that there was incompetent or inadequate evidence before the grand jury.” (Also because lawfully they are NOT allowed to supervise the Grand Jury since it is NOT under the jurisdiction of any of the three branches of either state or federal governments, but is the peoples way to hold those who serve within their governments accountable for their actions or non actions.)
Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the majority said In the Supreme Court case of United States v. Williams, 112 S.Ct. 1735, 504 U.S. 36, 118 L.Ed.2d 352 (1992)

Dumb luck specialist says:

Re: grand jury comments

Wow… Thank you for the wonderful information. Are you open to annoying questions from someone calling themselves “dumb”? I’ll be researching what you’ve shared here, but finding definitive answers is not as easy as I once though… Especially where laws are concerned.

Thank you for your time,


Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...