Prosecutors drop DUI cases connected to fired supervisor - FOX 13 News

Prosecutors drop DUI cases connected to fired supervisor

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Prosecutors are dropping 12 DUI cases connected with a DUI supervisor fired from the Tampa Police Department.

As many as 40 more are now under review.

It all started falling apart in January, when Sgt. Ray Fernandez pulled over Phil Campbell, the attorney for Todd "MJ" Schnitt.

A special prosecutor -- assigned by the governor -- found Fernandez had staked out Malio's for hours. While inside, employees for Bubba's law firm were getting Campbell drunk.

The morning after his arrest, Campbell called it bogus and a set up. Investigators agreed. Campbell's DUI was dropped, but it was only the first.

"Well, they were happy obviously," said Tampa defense attorney Tim Taylor. He represents one of a dozen defendants whose DUI cases are also being dropped.

"In this situation, where you have someone who's lied and potentially destroyed evidence in a case, that goes beyond what the state attorney's office can rehabilitate. Their credibility is shot, and they can't use that witness testimony to go forward on these cases," Taylor said.

The state attorney dropped the cases because Fernandez was the officer who pulled over the defendants. He was also the chief witness in each case. With his credibility in question, prosecutors say he can't be trusted on the witness stand.

In all, about 40 cases are under review.

"I am surprised. I think it's irresponsible. I don't think there is any reason to drop the charges against those people," said Fernandez's attorney Chip Purcell.

Purcell says his client didn't lie, and is now fighting to get his job back. He says Fernandez plans to file a grievance over his dismissal.

"All you get from the chief is this kind of nebulous 'well, I didn't know and he didn't tell me.' No. No. No. No. No. Tell me what you think he said. Tell me what you think is wrong, and tell me who else was in the room when he made that statement. Who's going to back you up on that because those statements were not made," Purcell said.

The last time Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor talked directly about this case was 12 days ago, when she fired Sgt. Fernandez. At that time, she said he lost his impartiality and professionalism. Wednesday, she released this written statement.

"So often, a DUI arrest serves as a wake-up call to an impaired driver. Any offender who is handcuffed, transported in the backseat of a police car, fingerprinted, locked in a jail cell, and have their mug shot posted on the web will likely feel the consequences of their actions. This may be enough to ensure they never get behind the wheel impaired again."

The FBI and the Florida Bar are also investigating.

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