Florida State Attorney Steve Meadows Charged with Prosecutorial Misconduct in Court Filing Today.
PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- A motion filed in state court today by noted Miami attorney Roy Black charges Bay County Florida State Attorney Steve Meadows with a pattern of blatant misconduct in his prosecution of "Girls Gone Wild" Mantra Films, Inc., CEO Joe Francis.
The 62-page Motion To Dismiss, which charges that Mr. Meadows both violated Florida's professional code of conduct and infringed on Mr. Francis' Sixth Amendment U.S. Constitutional right to a fair trial, cites Mr. Meadows' extensive disparaging comments about Mr. Francis on a VH-1 television program.
With a trial pending, Mr. Meadows has repeatedly sought to portray Mr. Francis to potential jurors as an "enemy combatant" to the point where Mr. Francis will never find an objective jury to listen to his factual accounts of what really happened in Panama City, Fla., during Spring Break in 2003, the motion states.
Mr. Meadows has so muddied the case with public misstatements and twisted facts that the only fair remedy for Mr. Francis is to throw out the indictment altogether because the jury pool is tainted, it continues. The motion seeks to dismiss the case on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.
The motion notes that, among other things, in a 38-minute interview on VH-1, Mr. Meadows violated the rules of the Florida Bar and Mr. Francis' Constitutional right to due process by proclaiming Mr. Francis guilty of smuggling drugs into the jail and stating that evidence already thrown out by the judge, which jurors would never see, proves his guilt.
"Repeatedly, the State has evinced a conscious and brazen disregard for its professional and ethical obligations and the Constitutional rights of the defendant," the motion states.
"At no point during the 38-minute interview does Meadows clarify that this Court suppressed evidence because law enforcement lied under oath in the probable cause affidavits...
"Other than to prejudice the potential venire (panel of potential jurors) into believing that there is this vast body of relevant evidence that they will never see nor hear, it is difficult to understand the reason for repeatedly referring to the evidence suppressed," the motion goes on.
During the VH-1 interview, Mr. Meadows points to "the defendant's efforts to smuggle drugs into the (jail) facility." However, the motion states, "The smuggling of drugs actually refers to the defendant's lawful possession of medications prescribed by his treating physician."
Mr. Francis has been incarcerated for more than six months without ever having been convicted. He was first ordered to jail for failing to settle a civil lawsuit in a Panama City court room. Despite the fact that the judge admitted Mr. Francis is neither a flight risk nor a danger to the community, his bail in Florida was denied. While in custody in Bay County, Mr. Francis was subjected to solitary confinement without access to the prescriptions he needs to treat a previously disclosed health condition. He also was handcuffed, shackled, denied food, medical attention, sleep and exercise, the motion states.
"In our country, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. But in Bay County Florida, Joe Francis is only innocent until Mr. Meadows' makeup is applied, the sound check is finished and TV cameras start rolling," said David R. Houston, of the Reno, Nevada Law Office of David R. Houston, one of Mr. Francis' high-profile criminal attorneys.
"Much as disgraced prosecutor Michael Nifong's public statements irresponsibly damaged the reputations of the defendants in the Duke Lacrosse case, Mr. Meadows' hunger for publicity has stepped all over Joe Francis' Constitutional rights," Mr. Houston said.
"From the moment Joe Francis and the Girls Gone Wild bus rolled into Panama City during that infamous Spring Break more than four years ago, local politicians and police have waged war against Joe," Mr. Houston continued. "Simply because Mr. Francis filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the city and its officials in 2003, exercising his Constitutional Rights, these officials have gone after him with a vengeance. Apparently, Joe's desire to enforce his Constitutional rights has rendered him to the officials of Panama City Florida the equivalent of a terrorist cell."
Mr. Black's motion concludes, "Dismissal is the only appropriate remedy as no lesser remedy can redress the prejudice to the defendant. The misconduct has not been inadvertent or isolated over time. Instead, the abuse was deliberate, spans over four years and continues to this very day."
The Motion To Dismiss and exhibits are on file at the Bay County Courthouse and can also be downloaded at www.royblack.com