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Pasco Sheriff's Office top brass fight subpoena in movie theater shooting

Defense attorneys' efforts to question high-ranking Pasco sheriff's officials in the Wesley Chapel movie theater shooting are being met with resistance from the law enforcement agency.

Attorneys for Curtis Reeves, the 71-year-old retired Tampa police captain accused of second-degree murder in the shooting of a fellow moviegoer, had subpoenaed Pasco Col. Jeff Harrington for an Aug. 15 deposition.

Sheriff's Office attorneys responded by asking a judge to bar the deposition.

Attorney Lindsay Moore wrote that "the colonel can offer no testimony at the trial of this matter that would be relevant" in the Jan. 13 shooting at the Cobb Grove 16 Theatres, where authorities say Reeves fatally shot Chad Oulson during an argument over Oulson texting during previews.

In addition, she wrote, requiring testimony from a high-ranking official such as Harrington, whose name was not on the state's witness list, would cause "annoyance, undue burden and expense."

Defense attorney Richard Escobar said the testimony is relevant because Harrington was at the scene and likely played a role in the investigation.

"You don't go to a scene to just kind of chill," he said. He added that Sheriff Chris Nocco told reporters that he and his top officials "Got together and decided this was not a 'stand your ground' case." The defense has maintained that Reeves shot in self-defense.

Escobar also questioned the argument that honoring the subpoena would cause Harrington, a public servant, any hardship.

Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said Harrington's role at the scene was merely advisory.

"He was there to provide support to the troops on the ground doing the actual investigation," he said.

Jeremiah Hawkes, another Sheriff's Office attorney, said Harrington never spoke to any witnesses or to Reeves, who gave a statement to a detective.

Escobar, who said recently that he plans to also subpoena Nocco, said Harrington's name did appear on discovery documents.

Hawkes said he didn't doubt that.

"Just because his name is on a report somewhere doesn't mean Col. Harrington has direct knowledge of the case," he said.

"This isn't an attempt to prevent Mr. Escobar from getting the information he needs," he added. Detectives and deputies can provide that.

Hawkes said any attempt to subpoena Nocco would prompt the same response.

"Just because the sheriff is briefed on a criminal cases does not mean he has to come testify," he said.

Contact Lisa Buie at lbuie@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4604. Follow @Lisa_Buie.

Pasco Sheriff's Office top brass fight subpoena in movie theater shooting 08/07/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 7, 2014 10:22pm]
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