Records Obtained By BocaNewsNow.com Reveal Questionable, Selective Use Of Charges
BY: ANDREW COLTON | EDITOR AND PUBLISHER
BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — Records obtained by BocaNewsNow.com reveal selective enforcement of COVID-19 rules and regulations, with police routinely using the “state of an emergency” as a way to enhance charges in crimes that have nothing to do with COVID.
On August 5th, the Town of Palm Beach Police Department charged Jerome Bianco with burglary, fleeing and eluding. But since his arrest was after midnight, Bianco was also charged with “violation of an emergency order.” A curfew was in effect. [Update March 1, 2021: the prosecutors did not end up pursing the charges against Bianco].
The same night, not one person in the Town of Palm Beach — according to court records — was charged solely with violating any COVID-related order.
A review of all emergency order violations processed since March by the Palm Beach County Clerk’s office, roughly 120 in all, reveal that police are routinely using COVID-19 charges as a way to enhance or “up-charge” other crimes, but not one of the arrests or violations we reviewed involved a stand-alone COVID-19 charge. No mask violations. No crowding violations. No business violations. In simple terms: police are using COVID-19 as a way to enhance other charges, but they are not solely enforcing any of the orders in effect from the State of Florida, from Palm Beach County, or local municipalities.
A review of all emergency order violations processed since March by the Palm Beach County Clerk’s office, roughly 120 in all, reveal that police are routinely using COVID-19 charges as a way to enhance other crimes, but not one of the arrests or violations we reviewed involved a stand-alone COVID-19 charge.
DELRAY BEACH POLICE
On April 13, 2020, Delray Beach Police charged Jesse Merzier of Zorno Way in Delray with Heroin Trafficking, Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of Marijuana. In addition to the drug charges, Merzier was also charged with “violation of a city (or) state emergency declaration.” He too was arrested after midnight — when a Delray Beach curfew was in effect.
But the same night, Delray Beach Police did not charge anyone on a city beach, on Atlantic Avenue, or in any business with violating a COVID-19 order.
Steven Alves of Swinton Avenue could have been charged with trespassing when he was found sleeping in a car in the parking lot of a car repair center. But instead, Delray Beach charged him with violating an emergency order — again, he was arrested after midnight. Trespass would have likely generated a citation or a warning. But Alves was jailed, found guilty, and sentenced to time served. That was May 4th. BocaNewsNow.com found no other COVID-19 related violations filed by the Delray Beach Police Department that night.
BOCA RATON POLICE
Boca Raton Police have apparently not charged anyone with anything regarding COVID-19. Out of the 120 or so violations reviewed by BocaNewsNow.com, not one was clearly issued by Boca Raton PD. No mask violations. No social distancing violations. No business violations. No boating violations — even though residents are constantly expressing concern over partying on Lake Boca.
As we have reported repeatedly, there is apparently no enforcement — in all of Palm Beach County — of mask orders, social distancing rules or business violations. There continues to be questions asked about what violations the highly publicized “COVID Education and Enforcement Team” (CECT) are actually issuing and what due process exists. While Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner claims 24 businesses have been shut down and others have been fined, the Palm Beach County Clerk of Courts has NO record of any violation being issued.
There continues to be no proof validating Mayor Dave Kerner’s claims. This information is public under Florida Statute 119.
County Commission spokespeople and County Administrator Verdenia Baker’s office have not replied to multiple requests for a list of violations issued and explanation of what due process exists for those cited. There continues to be no proof validating Mayor Dave Kerner’s claims that businesses have been fined as much as $15,000 and/or shut down. Such records should be public under Florida Statute 119.
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