TAMPA — Should the public have to pay for the defense of racial provocateur Tony Daniel?
Tampa prosecutors don't think so. And they're trying hard to convince a judge to give Daniel's public defender the boot.
Daniel, 61, is widely known in Tampa for signs that target African Americans and use racist language and images. The spectacle often puzzles people, who can't help but notice he is black.
He was arrested July 13 after police said he hit two women with a bullhorn when they took offense to a racist sign he displayed at the corner of Hyde Park Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard. He has said they attacked first.
After his arrest, Daniel filled out a standard form asking for the appointment of a public defender. He claimed he makes $300 a week and has debts and liabilities of $1,600 a month.
But Assistant State Attorney Jessica Couvertier noted in a recent court filing that Daniel has private attorneys representing him in two unrelated civil cases. She also pointed to public documents that state Daniel owns two properties and has paid taxes on them.
"The state believes (the) defendant is not in fact indigent," she wrote, "and therefore, the public defender's office should not be appointed to represent him in this matter."
In a hearing Thursday, Daniel testified that a family friend paid $500 for the attorney in one of his civil cases. His wife paid $150 for the attorney in the other case.
He said he has no assets to pay for a private defense.
Assistant Public Defender Rocky Brancato told County Judge Scott Farr that the office has already spent many hours preparing Daniel's defense.
The case touches on issues related to free speech and Florida's stand your ground law, he said. That makes it more complicated and costly than a typical battery allegation.
"Mr. Daniel has been a client of the Public Defender's Office in the past," Brancato said. "There has never been an issue."
He noted that it is unusual for the state to challenge the public defender's appointment.
"It begs the question of why the state is targeting Mr. Daniel," Brancato said.
The judge said he would later issue a written ruling.
Contact Dan Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.