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Widow's attorney complains of delays in 'stand your ground' theater shooting case

Widow Nicole Oulson and attorney T.J. Grimaldi are shown at a hearing in Curtis Reeves’ murder case in September 2014.
Widow Nicole Oulson and attorney T.J. Grimaldi are shown at a hearing in Curtis Reeves’ murder case in September 2014.
Published Sep. 6, 2017

The lawyer for the widow of a man shot to death in a Wesley Chapel movie theater lashed out publicly this week at defendant Curtis Reeves' attorneys, accusing them of unnecessarily delaying his criminal trial.

T.J. Grimaldi, who represents Nicole Oulson, was reacting to a suggestion that Reeves might qualify for another chance at a self-defense claim under Florida's retooled "stand your ground" law, after having been turned down once.

"I am almost at a loss for words over the constant unnecessary delays in this case," Grimaldi wrote to the Tampa Bay Times.

"While sitting in the status hearing the other day, it was painfully transparent that the defense is delaying this case for two hopeful outcomes: one, force the prosecutors to provide a plea deal; or two, wait for Mr. Reeves to become frail and/or too sick to stand trial."

Nearly four years have passed since a confrontation over a mobile phone at the Cobb Grove 16 cinemas ended in gunfire, killing Chad Oulson. His widow sued the theater, and Grimaldi represents her in that case.

Additionally, Reeves, 75, faces a second-degree murder trial.

He unsuccessfully argued this year that he was defending himself in January 2014 when he shot Oulson. Reeves claimed he should be immune from prosecution, citing Florida's "stand your ground" law.

At a hearing last week, defense attorney Richard Escobar told Circuit Judge Susan Barthle that he had yet to file an appeal of her decision denying Reeves immunity. He also raised the possibility that a recent change in the "stand your ground" law might force a repeat of a two-week hearing the court held earlier this year.

Grimaldi said he did not think the changed law would apply retroactively to the Reeves case, but if it does, he said he believes prosecutors will be able to meet their burden of proof.

"This potential change would simply add another layer of delay but would be for no reason," Grimaldi's statement read. "It was clear that Mr. Reeves was not telling the truth about the circumstances of that day, and it is even more clear that the judge sees right through the smoke and mirrors, or in this case the defense's claim of poor lighting.

"Unfortunately, while Mr. Reeves is allowed to live out his later years with his children and grandchildren because of the tactics of the defense, Ms. Oulson and her young daughter never get any closure about the murder of Chad Oulson."

Escobar denied that a plea agreement had ever been discussed; nor, he said, has the defense aimed to delay the case.

"I think Mr. Grimaldi is just not too familiar with the criminal justice system," Escobar said. "I don't know what his practice is like. Maybe he's not very busy.

"The defense has never requested a plea bargain, nor will the defense ever request a plea bargain," he said. "This case will be decided on the merits and the merits alone."