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Cases against Hernando court clerks wrapping up

BROOKSVILLE — The criminal cases against two county court clerks charged with divulging privileged information that outed an undercover sheriff's deputy are nearing completion.

The case riled Hernando County's law and order community last year when the clerks nearly sabotaged a yearlong investigation into a major drug network.

It resulted in the June arrest of two deputy clerks, Kijafa Brown and Jasmine Rivera, as well as Rivera's twin sister, Jaclyn.

On Tuesday, Jaclyn Rivera, 25, pleaded guilty to criminal disclosure of subpoena information. Prosecutors dropped a second charge as part of a plea deal but left the sentencing decision to Circuit Judge Jack Springstead, who gave Rivera two years' probation. He also withheld adjudication because Rivera had no previous criminal history.

She apparently dated Bobby Walter, the alleged drug kingpin at the center of the "Operation Raw Deal" drug sting who faces 13 criminal counts of drug trafficking and weapons possession.

Assistant State Attorney Rob Lewis dropped all three criminal charges against Jasmine Rivera on March 5 after she agreed to testify against her sister and her co-worker.

Jasmine Rivera was a well-liked and well-established member of the clerk's office. Hired in 2001 as a student clerk for $6.36 an hour, she worked her way up the ranks. Just months before the sting, she was promoted to a court clerk position making $12.05 an hour and working daily in courtrooms with judges, personnel records showed.

Lewis called Jaclyn and Jasmine Rivera minor players in the scheme and put much of the blame on Brown, who was friends with the Rivera sisters and with Lynette Mobley, who is the stepsister of Walter.

According to arrest reports, Brown "served as a lookout for criminal charges or upcoming law enforcement action" against Walter.

The 31-year-old was a relatively new employee who worked for $10 an hour as a central file clerk.

She recognized an undercover deputy leaving a deposition at the courthouse because she once worked for his wife at a youth program in Brooksville. From there, investigators say, she began to investigate whether he was a deputy by calling the detective's wife and going to their house. The call that tipped off investigators came March 11, 2007, when Brown passed the deputy's identity to Walter through Mobley, according to transcripts of the secretly taped call obtained by the St. Petersburg Times.

Defense attorneys for Brown and the Rivera sisters argue that their clients did not obtain any information that wasn't already publicly available. Curiosity is not a crime, said Peyton Hyslop, Brown's attorney.

Prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to get a conviction at trial, which is scheduled for Monday. But Hyslop said the case won't go that far. Brown intends to reach a plea agreement on her three criminal charges in court Thursday, he said.

Lewis said he plans to ask the judge for a harsher punishment against Brown because she played such a pivotal role.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352)

754-6114.

Cases against Hernando court clerks wrapping up 04/08/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 5:44pm]
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