State Attorney Criticized After Spence-Jones Charges Dropped
MIAMI (CBS4) – The attorney for Michelle Spence-Jones says she never should have been prosecuted for grand theft and the Miami-Dade Police union is raising additional concerns about the State Attorney’s office.
“This is a horrible 18 months for her after being falsely accused of this crime,” said Spence-Jones’s attorney Peter Raben after the 2nd degree grand-theft charges were dropped.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a statement she still believes a crime was committed when $50,000 in grants that were public funds were diverted. But she said she no longer had the evidence for a conviction.
But Raben took issue with that.
“Both witnesses came forward in both cases and said they were lied to and tricked by the Prosecutor and that’s why the case ended.” said Raben. “The state thought my client committed a crime but they couldn’t prove it because there wasn’t any evidence of a crime.”
“When you have a witness who takes the stand and changes her story, it’s not surprising that the jury would find her not guily,” said Daniel Lurvey, who is now a defense attorney and who was a Prosecutor for 12 years, working with both Rundle and former State Attorney Janet Reno.
“I think Kathy Rundle is doing an incredible job in difficult circumstances,” he told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench. He said she was “really betweena rock and a hard place” because no matter what decision she makes, there is bound to be criticism from the other side.
“Sometimes you feel strongly that someone committed a crime but you don’t have the evidence to support that in court,” said Lurvey.
But the President of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association had some criticism.
“We’ve always felt the State Attorney’s office was weak when it came to public corruption. And then for political needs during the elections we see an increase in the indictments of police officers. It’s something that gives us heartache and something that we have spoken about. We’re not surprised with anything that comes out of that office or decisions that happen,” said P.B.A. President John Rivera.
“In any organization the responsibility lies with the person in charge and in this case it lies with the State Attorney,” said Rivera. “I hope there will be new blood in the public corruption unit that will take it in a new direction.”
The Spence-Jones case follows controversy about some cases in which charges were either dropped or not filed.
Last year, charges were dismissed against the accused cat killer of Palmetto and Cutler Bay, Tyler Weinman. There was no DNA and not witnesses and GPS data placed him far away from the cat killings.
And the high-profile public corruption case involving Congressman David Rivera was damaged when, as CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald reported, two top prosecutors and an investigator were taken off the case. Rivera was being investigating for possible misuse of campaign funds and possibly diverting money to his mother’s company.
“I don’t know that we can make a general statement about Kathy Rundle’s policy because she does not have a policy,” said Lurvey. “She doesn’t have a policy about investigating certain cases because she takes each case individually and makes a decision whether to prosecute or not based on the facts and the law of a certain case.”