TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – A busload of people from Broward County arrived in Tallahassee late Sunday ahead of a series of hearings this week that will determine whether former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel gets his job back. Some of them chanted “No more Scott Israel” as they posed for photos.
Terri Rabinovitz was on the bus. She is the grandmother of victim Alyssa Alhadeff. She said this isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue for state senators, rather an issue of public safety.
“When they go to cast their vote it should not be blue or red,” she said. “It should not be. It should be what’s in their hearts.”
Nearly 10 months ago Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, just days after taking office, made the announcement removing Israel from office. Israel immediately announced his intention to fight back.
“There was no wrongdoing on my part,” Israel said. “I served the county honorably.”
The Governor blamed Israel for what he said were numerous failures in the Parkland shooting like a lack of active shooter training for deputies, deputies who failed to confront the shooter and a change in the active shooter policy that gave deputies discretion on confronting an active shooter. At his Senate trial over the summer, Israel defended that policy.
“The purpose of the policy is to give an officer discretion to not go into a suicide mission,” Israel testified.
After listening to all of the testimony and evidence a special master, attorney Dudley Goodlette, determined that Israel should be reinstated to his job. In his report, Goodlette wrote “the evidence offered has not demonstrated that Sheriff Israel should be removed from office based on this incident.”
The report also says “the record suggests that the Stoneman Douglas shooting was a culmination of individual failures.” The special master also said that BSO’s active shooter policy was in line with other Florida law enforcement agencies.
Andrew Pollack’s daughter Meadow was murdered at Stoneman Douglas. Pollack met with a bunch of Senators ahead of this week’s vote on Israel’s future and reminded them that Goodlette’s recommendation is non-binding. He also told them what fears might happen if Israel gets his job back.
“There could be another mass shooting and it would be on the shoulders of every Senator that voted to reinstate him,” Pollack said.
Pollack also said he believes Israel should be held accountable for the actions of his deputies.
“A leader cannot be held responsible by the failures of individuals? Then what is a leader? When are they held accountable?” Pollack said.
It is also expected that a number of supporters of former Sheriff Israel will also be in attendance on Monday when the Senate Rules Committee will hear testimony from Goodlette, attorneys for DeSantis and Israel and from the public, including families of the Parkland victims. On Wednesday all 40 senators — 23 Republicans and 17 Democrats — will vote to determine if Israel should be reinstated.
There were some last minute legal maneuverings this weekend ahead of the hearings. First, Israel’s defense team argued that Senators should not be allowed to consider new testimony and information ahead of tomorrow’s hearing before the Rules Committee. That request was shot down.
Israel’s attorney, Ben Kuehne, also objected to the Governor’s appointment of attorney, George Levesque, to his legal team. Kuehne argued that Levesque represented Okaloosa County School Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson around the same time that she and Israel were removed from office by DeSantis. Kuehne said he and Levesque communicated during his period and Kuehne “shared confidential information and strategy considerations” with him. The Special Counsel ruled against Kuehne saying, “the Senate has no authority to disqualify Mr. Levesque.”