A Florida state attorney has opened an investigation into a scandal that is being called “textgate” involving some officials in Orange County. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, or FDLE, is investigating whether public records were destroyed by losing or deleting text messages and whether open-meeting laws were violated. If the case against them holds that these officials intentionally destroyed public records, criminal charges may be filed, and these county officials may face penalties that include removal from office, jail time and a fine.
For this situation, in order to make the case for the first-degree demeanor charge, it needs to be shown that the officials’ intent was to destroy what they knew to be public records; however, intent can often be difficult to prove. If a person or organization requested a copy of a text, claiming that it was part of the public record, and the county official then willingly deleted the text, then a case could be made that the official had intent to violate the law. Additionally, a forensic audit of the cell phones of those involved may turn up evidence that might help prove intent.
The state attorney has said that he will be following up with the FDLE during the course of their investigation, but he has refrained from discussing specific information about the case. Several commissioners and the mayor’s chief of staff are among those being investigated.
When people face criminal charges, they deserve to be represented by an attorney who may work to ensure that their rights are protected. If the state attorney files charges, then the Orange County leaders involved in this case may need a criminal defense attorney who may help plan an effective defense and may be able to have the charges reduced or dismissed.
Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Proving ‘textgate’ crime will be tough, expert says,” David Damron, Feb. 4, 2013
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