JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — (Editor's Note: The video above is from a previous story.)
State Attorney Melissa Nelson is defending her office’s decision to remove an officer’s name from its Brady list, saying she found his “claim of mistake” supported by the court record.
Nelson was responding to a letter from the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers criticizing the removal of JSO Sgt. J.C. Nobles from the list of officers with compromised reputations or legal troubles.
The state attorney is not required to maintain an actual list, but must disclose any information that could be helpful to a criminal defendant, including questions about an officer’s credibility. Nelson created the list when she took office; her predecessor Angela Corey didn’t keep one.
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Nobles had been on the Brady list for four years after a judge found he was “specifically not credible” in a 2018 criminal case. But his name was deleted from the list in late April after an unorthodox legal maneuver by prosecutors.
After fielding complaints from Nobles and the Fraternal Order of Police -- who have long maintained Nobles’ shifting testimony was the result of confusion, not deceit -- Chief Assistant State Attorney L.E. Hutton filed a motion asking the judge for “clarification” of his 2018 order.
In that order, Circuit Judge Bruce Anderson suppressed all evidence in the case because he found “Sgt. Nobles completely and materially changed his sworn testimony about the events that led to the traffic stop.” Anderson said the officer was also “evasive, confrontational, argumentative and non-responsive during cross-examination.”
In the motion filed in late April, Hutton asked Anderson if he believed Nobles “lied” … “as opposed to having made an honest mistake in his deposition.”
Judge Anderson formally denied Hutton’s request for clarity, since has no legal jurisdiction in the closed case, but simultaneously offered the clarification requested, saying he never “believed nor found that Sgt. Nobles ‘lied’ … endeavored to intentionally mislead or deceive …or otherwise commit perjury.” After the order was issued, the state removed Nobles' name from the Brady list.
FACDL President Jude Faccidomo called the process “bizarre” and in a May 2 letter to Nelson criticized the SAO's legal request, which he said, “seemed to be very much offered personally on behalf of Sgt. Nobles.”
Faccidomo said the group “fully expects” Nobles’ name to stay on the Brady list. “Removal of Sgt. Nobles from the Brady List reveals a desire to conceal a material fact” from potential defendants, he wrote.
Nelson responded May 3, saying the record “belies” that allegation. “Our pleading was filed publicly, and we have given on record media interviews explaining our thinking and actions.”
Nelson added, “I hope this letter dispels any concerns you or your members may have.”
That doesn’t seem likely since Faccidomo said “we stand by to assist any members in litigation aimed at correcting such a blatant due process violation” if Nobles' name isn’t on the list.
It’s not clear what legal footing the group might have, though to be fair, the actions taken in the case recently are also legally unprecedented.
Case in point: after Anderson effectively reversed his 2018 opinion, the original defense attorney on the case filed his own motion in the closed case.
Anthony Rosati observed that when he was alerted to the SAO’s new filing, he asked Judge Anderson to “summarily deny” it, but alternatively asked for an opportunity to file a response. Five days later, having not responded to Rosati, Anderson issued his new order.
Rosati said that although the judge denied the “untimely” motion “in form” he granted it “in substance.” He asked the judge to strike the state’s motion and vacate his own order.
On May 3, and without comment, the motion was denied. Four days later, Rosati filed a notice of appeal. Neither the State Attorney nor the judge have yet filed a response.
Nobles' name remains off the list.