State responds to Curtis Reeves' appeal of bail denial

Prosecutors met their burden at bail hearing, a Pam Bondi rep says.
Published May 13 2014
Updated May 14 2014

The retired Tampa police captain facing a murder charge in a Pasco movie theater shooting of a fellow patron failed to show that the judge who ordered him left behind bars ruled incorrectly, a representative for the state's top prosecutor said Tuesday.

In considering an appeal filed by Curtis Reeves Jr., an appellate court "must determine whether (Reeves) has produced sufficient evidence to overcome the presumption of correctness that attaches to the Circuit Court's exercise of its sound discretion," wrote Assistant Attorney General John Klawikofsky, who filed the response for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Reeves, 71, is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 13 shooting of Chad Oulson, 43, at the Grove Cobb Theatres in Wesley Chapel. Authorities said the shooting resulted from an argument over Oulson's refusal to stop texting his 2-year-old daughter's babysitter. Witnesses said Reeves got up and left the auditorium briefly to complain to management, then returned and began arguing with Oulson. Seconds later, they said, popcorn flew, and Reeves fired once at Oulson.

In February, Circuit Judge Pat Siracusa denied bail for Reeves, whose attorneys argued that their client acted in self-defense. During the two-day bail hearing, the defense put up a witness who "enhanced" the theater surveillance video and said a lighted object was thrown at Reeves. Defense attorneys said that object appeared to be a cellphone thrown by Oulson.

But Klawikofsky argued that the eyewitnesses all testified that they did not see Oulson threaten or attack Reeves. He also objected to the defense's video, saying the state did not have an opportunity to have its own expert review it.

"The state met its heavy burden at the bail hearing," Klawikofsky wrote in response to Reeves' attorneys' assertion that prosecutors' burden of proof at a bail hearing is even greater than the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" used in trials.

He also said Siracusa obviously was not persuaded by the defense argument that the surveillance video contained evidence that the defendant was hit with something, maybe a cellphone.

"Such argument was contrary to every witness to the crime, including Mrs. Reeves, that the defendant was not hit by any object," Klawikofsky wrote. He also said the judge questioned why there were no marks on Reeves if he had been hit with a phone.

The appeal will be heard by the 2nd District Court of Appeal.