MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami-Dade Crimestoppers Director Richard Masten says he will fight the contempt of court charges against him for refusing to turn over information on a pending drug case.
Masten said he feared that information could lead to the Defendant’s attorney and perhaps the public finding out the name of the Crime Stoppers tipster.
Masten, who is the host of “Crime Stoppers” which airs on WFOR on Saturday nights, dramatically demonstrated his concerns inside the Metro Justice Building courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Victoria Brennan.
Masten studied a piece of paper that he had been ordered to turn over to the Judge and then he ripped it up and ate most of it. He chewed the paper slowly and then threw some of the paper into a nearby waste basket.
“That was an information tip sheet that I was afraid would be taken into custody and that would be part of the property and there is goes and so I had a little lunch,” Masten told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
According to court documents, there were several requests between December 2013 and this month for Masten to turn over reports regarding the cocaine possession case of 45-year-old Lissette Alvarez.
Alvarez’s attorney, Jean-Michel D’escoubet, told D’Oench, “Ms. Alvarez has a right to confront her accusers but more particularly in this case not the accuser but the evidence the state plans to use against her in this case.”
“In this case there is no indication we are looking for the name of the tipster, only evidence for the trial against her,” said D’escoubet.
Judge Brennan sentenced Masten to two weeks behind bars for contempt of court. The court order notes that Masten then asked for more time so he could alert the media.
Masten also contacted prominent attorney Ed O’Donnell, who asked the Judge for a delay until next Thursday for the sentencing so he could seek additional advice and confer with Masten.
O’Donnell said he would also confer with the State Attorney General’s Office and said, “I’ve known Chief Masten for many years and I’ve never been more proud of him than I am today.”
Judge Brennan told O’Donnell in court, “He (Masten) thinks I want him to disclose the tipster and that is not even close what I want him to do. I think sometimes passion can cloud his judgement.”
Masten told reporters in court, “If it came down to giving up any documents that might endanger our case, I’ll say no. The issue is the court asking Crimestoppers to go against the promise of anonymity.”
Masten was very outspoken outside the courtroom. “I’m highly upset about this situation,” he said. “It should never have occurred. I represent Crimestoppers promise to tipsters that we will never give up any information about them in any shape or form.”
Masten said, “Sometimes with the possibility of looking at several documents, a defendant could work that case back and put the defendant in peril and I’m not going to let that happen.”
He said the Judge told him information from Crime Stoppers could be turned over to the defendant.
“I said that can’t happen,” he said. “I can’t give you the information and for that I am held in criminal contempt. The judge accused me of having a disrespect for the constitution. I’m angry about that. I have no disrespect. I’ve helped the constitution for 35 years.”
“I am prepared to go to jail and I expect to be sent to jail,” he said. “I’ll be back here next Thursday with my toothbrush and my pajamas.”
“I’m not happy about the idea of going to jail but what we have today in our society is we all just want to let things go and the people who have responsibility just take it on the chin when often they don’t have to. They take the easy way out.”
Judge Brennan said contempt of court could bring a sentence of up to six months behind bars.