Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dozen DUI cases dropped in fallout over fired Tampa police sergeant

Former Tampa police Sgt. Raymond Fernandez was fired over his role in a DUI setup scandal.

Former Tampa police Sgt. Raymond Fernandez was fired over his role in a DUI setup scandal.

TAMPA — One of the accused was spotted driving down Kennedy Boulevard just before midnight with her headlights off.

Another blew at twice the alcohol level for conviction of drunken driving. Two more were pulled over after driving the wrong way on one-way streets.

Twelve people facing drunken driving charges in Tampa now have something else in common: Their cases have been dropped because former Tampa police DUI Sgt. Ray Fernandez was involved.

Fernandez, a 19-year veteran of the department, was fired last month after an internal investigation determined he misused his authority, likely destroyed evidence and lied about a DUI setup scandal still playing out.

Now, the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office has closed 12 pending cases in which Fernandez was an important figure and an essential witness — such as what's called the "stop officer" who made the initial traffic stop that led to the arrest.

"We're not going to use him as a witness if he's been found to be untruthful," said Douglas Covington, the bureau chief of misdemeanor and traffic cases for the State Attorney's Office.

Tim Taylor, an attorney for one of the accused, said putting Fernandez on the witness stand could have been "a three-ring circus" under the circumstances.

"He's testifying, and how do we know he's truthful?" Taylor asked. His client, he said, was "happy" the case was dropped.

"We just have to hope that the DUI arrest is the wakeup call for these drivers," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "You were put in handcuffs, taken to jail, held accountable for your actions. Lots of times that's enough to make people change their behavior."

But the fired officer's attorney called dropping those DUI cases "irresponsible."

Chip Purcell said there was no credible evidence that Fernandez was untruthful and called his firing "a political sacrifice." Fernandez, he said, will fight to get his job back with the police force.

John Fitzgibbons, attorney for C. Philip Campbell, whose DUI arrest started it all, fired back.

"There's not a prosecutor in the land," he said, "that would go forward with a witness like that."

The State Attorney's Office is also reviewing Fernandez's role in about 40 other DUI arrests dating to 2000 — cases in which the accused didn't show up to court and an arrest warrant was issued.

The recently closed misdemeanor DUI files now include a copy of a blistering report made by specially assigned Pinellas-Pasco prosecutors detailing the controversial Jan. 23 arrest of lawyer Campbell.

Campbell was in the midst of a bitter defamation trial, representing radio personality Todd Schnitt against rival Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.

The special investigation into that arrest detailed "collaboration" and "organized effort" that night at Malio's bar in downtown Tampa involving members of Adams & Diaco, the opposing law firm representing Clem.

One of the firm's paralegals called her boss to say she spotted Campbell at the bar. She sat with him, lied about where she worked and bought drinks.

Dozens of text messages and calls flew among her and members of her law firm. There were at least 90 between an Adams & Diaco lawyer and his good friend Sgt. Fernandez.

Campbell was arrested while driving the paralegal's car, but the charge was dropped after the investigation.

Fernandez has said he was just following a tip about a drunken driver.

The incident is the subject of investigations by both the Florida Bar and the FBI.

Dozen DUI cases dropped in fallout over fired Tampa police sergeant 10/08/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 11:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Muslims thankful for support after rant, deadly attack

    Crime

    PORTLAND, Ore. — Muslims in Portland, Ore., thanked the community for its support and said they were raising money for the families of two men who were killed when they came to the defense of two young women — one wearing a hijab — who were targeted by an anti-Muslim rant.

    Jeremy Christian is accused of killing 2 men who stepped in as he berated two women.
  2. Following Trump's trip, Merkel says Europe can't rely on U.S. anymore

    Politics

    LONDON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday declared a new chapter in U.S.-European relations after contentious meetings with President Donald Trump last week, saying that Europe "really must take our fate into our own hands."

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel, shown speaking with President Trump last week, says Europe “must take our fate into our own hands.”
  3. Seven children, 1 to 10, seriously injured when driver loses control on I-4

    Accidents

    TAMPA — Seven young passengers 1 to 10 years old were seriously injured when the driver of a Chevrolet Suburban lost control, causing the vehicle to flip and hit a fence on Interstate 4 just east of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for the week of May 29-June 4

    Events

    Memorial Day: Among the free events paying tribute to fallen soldiers today is the Bay Pines VA Memorial Day Ceremony in St. Petersburg, with speakers including Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Charlie Christ, musical performances, a rifle salute and taps. (727) 319-6479 . The Florida National Cemetery …

    Young blonde boy carrying an American Flag over a wooden Bridge.
  5. Sheriff's Office: Drug dispute preceded fatal Largo motel shooting

    Crime

    LARGO — A fight over drugs preceded the shooting death of a 47-year-old man Thursday night at a Largo motel, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said Sunday.

    Angel E. Martinez, 24, is accused in the shooting death of Ricky Garland, 47, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. [Pinellas County Jail]