TAMPA — Tony Daniel needs a new lawyer.
A judge this week pulled the plug on Daniel's public defender after deciding the client has sufficient assets to hire his own attorney in a misdemeanor battery case.
Daniel, 61, is widely known in Tampa for his roadside demonstrations, which target African Americans with slurs and racist images. Onlookers are often perplexed when they notice Daniel is black. His antics have been a persistent annoyance for city officials.
On July 13, he was arrested and accused of beating two women with a bullhorn when they took offense to one of his displays.
Hillsborough County Assistant Public Defender Rocky Brancato had already mounted a substantial defense that included a request to dismiss the charges under Florida's stand your ground law. He argued that the women attacked Daniel first. He also noted that Daniel's behavior, while offensive, was protected speech under the First Amendment.
Now it's all for naught.
"The court is aware that the public defender has worked on the case and filed motions," County Judge Scott Farr wrote. "However, the court is not persuaded that fact outweighs the other evidence in this matter."
Prosecutors had argued that Daniel was not entitled to the services of the Public Defender's Office, which represents criminal defendants who lack the financial means to hire their own lawyers. They presented public documents that showed Daniel had private attorneys representing him in two unrelated civil cases.
The state also showed court papers related to a property dispute in which Daniel said he transferred his ownership of an east Tampa home to another person.
He did so, he said in court, to shield his name from public records because of "ongoing harassment from government agencies." He said the other person agreed to return the property to him when asked.
"In other words," the judge wrote, "by the defendant's own admission, he engaged in a fraudulent real estate transfer for the sole purpose of deceit, specifically, to deceive the government with respect to the true state of his assets."
The judge noted Daniel did not disclose his property interests on a form requesting a public defender.
In a court hearing last week, Brancato told the judge it is unusual for the state to challenge his office's appointment.
"It begs the question of why the state is targeting Mr. Daniel," he said.
The next court date is set for December.
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Contact Dan Sullivan at email@example.com or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.