By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Eighteen months after a panel of Florida’s Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission found probable cause to consider revoking Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony’s license to carry a badge and a gun, Tony finally faces the music in a court of law.
The non-jury trial is set to begin at 9 a.m. today before administrative law judge Robert Kilbride in Tallahassee. The refrains are familiar.
A lawyer for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will prosecute the CJSTC’s findings that Tony repeatedly lied under oath when applying for a Florida driver’s license. Assistant General Counsel Natalie Alexandra Bielby will argue that under Florida’s Administrative Code, “the appropriate penalty…is suspension to revocation” of Tony’s license to be a police officer, according to papers filed Friday at the state Division of Administrative Hearings.
Those same court papers, pre-hearing stipulations jointly filed by Bielby and Tony’s Tallahassee attorney, Stephen Webster, say the defense will argue that Tony “did not commit the misconduct alleged and has not violated officer standards.” They show that Tony will rely on the findings of a flawed criminal investigation conducted by the office of Fort Myers State Attorney Amira Fox. Fox’s office declined to charge Tony with felony perjury as recommended by FDLE Inspector Keith Riddick.
The driver’s license offenses were part of a broader FDLE investigation of Tony that began after Florida Bulldog exclusively reported in May 2020 that when he was appointed sheriff by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January 2019 Tony kept secret that as a 14-year-old in Philadelphia in 1993 he’d shot and killed a man. All Juvenile Court records about his case were sealed. We reported that on Jan. 7, 2020, as part of his continuing certification as a police officer, Tony signed an FDLE affidavit under oath asserting, among other things, that he’d never had any criminal records sealed or expunged.
Tony was found not guilty of murder after key witnesses failed to appear to testify at trial. Because his court files could be located, however, it could not be determined whether Tony had his case sealed.
TONY’S DRIVING RECORDS
FDLE agents also obtained copies of Tony’s driving records in both Pennsylvania and Florida. Their report says those records show that Tony’s license was suspended twice in Pennsylvania for multiple failures to appear in court, and that over the years he’d repeatedly answered “no” when asked, “Has your driving privilege ever been revoked, suspended or denied in any state?”
Many of Tony’s numerous other false statements, which the FDLE’s July 2021 report says deliberately “misled public servants in the performance of their official duties,’’ were impossible to prosecute because of Florida’s Statute of Limitations.
In addition to having a variety of exhibits, such as copies of Tony’s Pennsylvania and Florida driving records, the prosecution will be calling as witnesses Inspector Riddick, FDLE training and research manager Erica Gaines and two Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) employees, Brittni Romero and Michelle Rolle.
Romero was the driver’s license examiner in Lauderdale Lakes who took Tony’s license application on Feb. 1, 2019 – just 22 days after his appointment as sheriff. Rolle is the office’s general manager.
Tony had gone there to obtain a new license that would remove his home address and replace it with his address at the sheriff’s office. He was accompanied by his executive officer, BSO Col. Munib “Benny” Ahmed.
NO CRIMINAL PROSECUTION
After taking a taped statement from Romero, Riddick recommended that Tony be charged with “felony perjury.” But in January 2022 Anthony Kunasek, the special prosecutions chief in Fort Myers, decided against prosecuting Tony criminally in a close-out memo citing what he said was examiner Romero’s “uncertainty’’ about Tony in her sworn statement to FDLE.
Kunasek, who killed himself in May 2022, didn’t tell the full story. For example, he misrepresented the significance of what Romero had to say about how she processed Tony that day. Kunasek wrote that Romero “initially stated that she may have marked or ‘pulled over’ information from a previous application as she was trying to hurry or rush Sheriff Tony through the process.”
The implication was that Romero had mistakenly pulled over Tony’s “no” answer from an earlier form. But in a separate interview, DHSMV Systems Evaluation Unit manager Barbara Peacock told FDLE that the system did not allow such a transfer of information to occur.
Sheriff Tony listed as his witnesses Col. Ahmed and Sonia Colon, who is not further identified. Colon, however, is a longtime employee of the DHSMV in Tallahassee. She is also said to be Tony’s friend.
Two days have been set aside for trial. Judge Kilbride will have 30 days to announce his decision. Anyone interested in watching the trial can click here for instructions on how to attend via Zoom.