By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Two years after it began, a multi-faceted state investigation of Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony has ended without the filing of any criminal charges.
Amira Fox, state attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit based in Fort Myers, issued a memo and a report late Monday declaring that the most serious allegations involving Tony, including lies about his arrest for murder in 1993 when he was 14-years-old, as either “lacking sufficient evidence” or “barred by the statute of limitations.”
An accompanying 15-page report by Florida Department of Law Enforcement Inspector Keith Riddick says that Tony declined last June to be interviewed.
The only “potentially viable” claim against Tony presented to her office by the FDLE related to an alleged false statement on a driver’s license replacement application Tony e-signed on Feb. 1, 2019, just 22 days after his appointment by Gov. Ron DeSantis. In the electronic document, Tony answered “no” when asked whether his driving privilege had ever been revoked, suspended or denied in any state. In fact, Tony’s driving privilege was suspended in Pennsylvania in the early 1990s. Further, before signing Tony attested that the answers he gave were true and correct.
In the memo, Fox’s special prosecutions chief Anthony Kunasek wrote prosecutors declined to charge Tony with perjury after the clerk in the Lauderdale Lakes office of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles who asked Tony those questions and electronically marked the document gave a sworn statement with uncertain testimony about what happened.
“The clerk’s uncertainty as to whether she actually asked Sheriff Tony the question, and his actual answer was then documented by the clerk, precludes the state from being able to prove the criminal allegations beyond a reasonable doubt,” the memo says.
But that’s not how the situation was described in Riddick’s report, which recommends Tony be charged with “false affidavit perjury” – a third degree felony – by “knowingly and willfully” swearing that the false statements he made – that he had not had a driver’s license revoked, suspended or denied in any state – were true.
FDLE’s report says inspectors obtained a sworn affidavit from the clerk, a driver’s license examiner named Brittni Romero, who testified she not only remembered the transaction with Tony but “further advised that Tony filled and answered the questions on the application himself. Furthermore, as part of the application process, Romero stated that she was required to read the above described attestation that Tony then signed.
Nevertheless, Kunasek’s memo concludes there would be no charge filed against Tony. Instead, he offers “the suggestion that FDLE submit all the material generated from its investigation to the Florida Commission on Ethics for review.”
An FBI investigation of Tony for suspected bid rigging, fraud and kickbacks involving BSO’s 2019 purchase of bleeding control stations from a South Carolina company where Tony once worked is moribund, sources have said.
CASE MOVED OUT OF BROWARD
The case was originally worked by FDLE with the Broward State Attorney’s Office. DeSantis transferred it to Fox’s office last fall. At the time, sources said the reason was at FDLE’s request because of State Attorney Harold Pryor’s reluctance to charge Tony. The FDLE report released by Fox is dated July 19, 2021 and states that it was presented to Pryor’s office for his determination.
Perhaps the most serious aspect of the FDLE investigation was that Tony lied on his January 2020 FDLE Criminal Justice and Standards Training form in which he checked false to the question “I had a criminal record sealed or expunged.”
That allegation involved Tony’s May 4, 1993 arrest by Philadelphia police for previous day’s murder of Hector “Chino” Rodriguez, 18. In addition to murder, the homicide file revealed that Tony was also charged with possessing instruments of crime, possession of an unlicensed firearm and carrying firearms on public streets or public property. Tony was released into the custody of what is today the city’s Juvenile Justice Services Center and bond was set at $15,000, the report says.
No official court records could be found regarding the disposition of the arrest, but “open source information” showed Tony went to trial on Dec. 15, 1993 and was found not guilty of all charges.
Riddick wrote that, via subpoenas, he attempted to obtain all Pennsylvania court records about the homicide case, as well as a pair of adult probation cases in which Tony was identified as a defendant – one in 1992 and another in 1994.
Nobody at the city’s district attorneys’ office would talk on the record, and those that would talk on background said the records about Tony were no longer in the office “and they surmised that the records were expunged.” Similar responses were given by the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, where trial was held, and the Philadelphia police.
Riddick’s conclusion letting Tony off the hook: “Although the records pertaining to the arrest of Gregory Tony for the murder of Hector Rodriguez appeared to have been expunged, OEI (FDLE’s Office of Executive Investigation) Inspectors were unable to find any documentation which identified who requested and/or caused said expungement.”
TONY’S LIES ON LAW ENFORCEMENT APPLICATIONS
Riddick also examined Tony’s law enforcement related applications. At the Tallahassee Police Department, it was noted that Tony was excluded from employment after admitting to felony use and possession of LSD. But because Tony’s employment application had been routinely destroyed years ago, “it was not possible to determine if Tony disclosed the aforementioned Pennsylvania criminal history.”
Tony’s application to attend Tallahassee Community College’s law enforcement academy in 2004 showed Tony “provided false information” to questions regarding his traffic citation history, drug use, and his arrest history “since he failed to disclose his arrest for murder in Pennsylvania,” the report says.
But even though “it appears that Tony knowingly and willfully mislead public servants in the performance of their official duties in. making false statements in writing on his official applications,” the report says, no criminal prosecution was possible due to Florida’s statute of limitations.
Tony repeated those lies by omission on his application to join the Coral Springs Police Department in 2005, according to the report. Tony got the job, which lasted until September 2016, and today he also gets off the hook thanks to Florida’s Statute of Limitations.
On Jan. 10, 2019 FDLE’s background investigations unit was ordered to check Tony out in preparation for his appointment as sheriff the next day. As part of that, Tony was asked to provide the governor’s office with a one-page biography. It noted he’d grown up on “the crime-ridden street (sic) of Philadelphia’s inner city”…”when drugs and violent crime were consuming the majority of his peers, Greg (Tony) took to sports to find an escape.”
“It should be noted,” the report says, “that Tony failed to disclose in the letter to the Governor, information pertaining to his self-disclosed drug history and his arrest for murder by the PPD (Philadelphia Police Department.)”