JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The legal gymnastics used to strike a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer’s name from a list of troubled cops is generating pushback and even threats of litigation.
In a letter to State Attorney Melissa Nelson Monday, an organization representing Florida criminal defense attorneys criticized recent actions that led to the removal of Sgt. J.C. Nobles from prosecutors’ “Brady list” of problematic police officers.
“Removal of Sgt. Nobles from the Brady List reveals a desire to conceal a material fact” from potential defendants, wrote Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers President Jude Faccidomo, saying the group “fully expects” his name to be on the list.
Nobles was placed on local prosecutors’ Brady list after a judge in 2018 found his sworn testimony “not credible” and the officer himself “evasive.” The 13-page order by Circuit Judge Bruce Anderson, enumerating the reasons Nobles’ testimony could not be relied upon, not only scuttled the case. It tainted the officer’s reputation, to the point that prosecutors considered his involvement in a case part of their required “Brady” disclosure of evidence that could benefit the defense.
But in an admittedly unprecedented legal maneuver earlier this month, the State Attorney’s Office asked Judge Anderson for “clarification” of his four-year-old order. And the judge offered clarification, even as he denied the order since he had no legal jurisdiction to revisit the case. In his new order, the judge said that he never thought Nobles lied, and never intended for his determination about the officer’s lack of credibility to apply beyond the 2018 case.
Less than two weeks after the judge issued the order, prosecutors took Nobles’ name off the Brady list.
In his letter Monday, Faccidomo told Nelson FACDL has “grave concern” about the SAO’s actions, saying that based on Judge Anderson’s original order, “it’s quite clear that Sgt. Nobles lied on the witness stand and ‘materially changed his testimony.’” He also highlighted the judge’s decision to deny the order “while still curiously offering the very ‘clarification’ sought.”
Despite the new order, Faccidomo wrote, “the tenets of Brady v. Maryland still very much require that Sgt. Nobles remain on your office’s list.”
Nobles has declined First Coast News' interview requests, but has objected to the characterization that he “lied” to both prosecutors and JSO officials. He says he simply made a “mistake” when he changed his sworn testimony to support his contention that he had probable cause for a traffic stop.
Faccidomo said the State Attorney’s Office’s April 8 motion for clarification, “was curiously devoid of any statutory or procedural authority that would give the court jurisdiction over a closed case. Moreover this pleading seemed to be very much offered personally on behalf of Sgt. Nobles.” Faccidomo said “if the motion was filed at the behest of Sgt. Nobles as has been represented to us though media outlets, the pleading was not proper.”
Faccidomo appears to be referencing an interview with First Coast News, in which a reporter told him Nobles had been “pushing” the State Attorney’s Office for some time for an opportunity to appeal or undo his Brady list status – something prosecutors acknowledge.
But Chief Assistant State Attorney L.E. Hutton draws a distinction between filing the motion for clarity and doing so at the officer’s behest. In an interview last Tuesday, he said, “We are doing this because the officer has provided us background, which has created some concerns internally about whether he should be placed on the list. But ultimately, it's the court's order. And so this was the only mechanism that we could think of in order to bring this attempt to bring this to a head to see how the court would respond to our motion.”
The FACDL letter says the group “expects that Sgt. Nobles’ name will be included on your office’s Brady list moving forward.” If not, the letter said, “we stand by to assist any members in litigation aimed at correcting such a blatant due process violation.
A spokesperson for Nelson said she will respond to the letter in writing.
The letter isn’t the only challenge to the remarkable revision to Brady list history. Attorney Anthony Rosati, who served on the original case involving Nobles’ dubious testimony, filed his own motion in the 2018 case last week. In it, he notes that when he first received notification of the SAO’s new filing, he asked Judge Anderson to “summarily deny” it “because it was untimely.”
Alternatively, he asked for the standard 45 day period to file a formal response. But five days later, having "not received a response” from the court, Rosati said, the judge issued his new order.
“Although in form the trial court denied [the motion],” Rosati wrote, “in substance the trial court granted [it]… by denying it with commentary, answering to inquires proffered by the state.”
Rosati asks the judge to grant his new motion to strike the state’s original motion for clarification and vacate the judge’s order.
There is no response to Rosati’s motion, either from prosecutors or the judge.