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State Attorney responds to criticism of SWAT raid

Statement from Brian Kramer, State Attorney for the Eighth Judicial Circuit of Florida

I recently read the opinion piece written by the Gainesville Sun Editorial Board entitled “Answers needed on SWAT raid of real estate office” dated July 8, 2021. It seems there are matters addressed within the piece that require clarification as they are founded in a lack of understanding of the criminal justice system and the State Attorney’s Office’s role within it.

“. . . [T]he State Attorney’s Office need[s] to provide answers about what led to the raid and why these tactics were used,” is a statement predicated on an inaccurate belief that we participate in any aspect of the execution of a search warrant. We absolutely do not. Every search warrant application must set out the probable cause that supports the court’s issuance of that warrant. The role of the State Attorney in the 8th Judicial Circuit is to review the warrant to determine if (1) it is supported by probable cause, (2) it is correct in its format, and (3) it meets the legal requirements for the necessary specificity of the place to be searched and the items to be seized. The State Attorney has no authority to participate in the planning or execution of the search warrant.

There is good reason for this. While I and my Assistant State Attorneys are law enforcement officers, we are not trained or experienced in street level strategy, tactics, or safety procedures necessary for the safe, proper, and lawful execution of a search warrant. This is the sole and exclusive duty of sworn Law Enforcement Officers, such as the Sheriff, his deputies, and the police.

I have heard the concerns surrounding this event, and I am sympathetic to them. I have also heard from many law enforcement officers about the dangers associated with the execution of warrants. I support our local Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ efforts to lawfully and safely execute the warrants of our courts. It is not for me to decide, or comment, on the appropriateness of the methodologies utilized in the execution of this warrant.

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“… [T]he local State Attorney’s Office has in the past been reluctant to get involved in white-collar crimes, …” is also inaccurate. The truth of this matter is the State Attorney’s Office has consistently prosecuted white-collar crime as frequently as many other types of crime. Since taking office, I have made certain types of white-collar crime, specifically exploitation of the elderly, a prosecutorial priority.

Where we can agree is that white collar crime is under-detected, under-reported, under-investigated and, therefore, under-prosecuted compared to more familiar criminal activity. When the Gainesville Sun originally reported on the matter of the execution of this search warrant, the reporter expressed this opinion to our Public Information Officer. He refuted it and reminded the reporter that The Sun has covered many high-profile cases of white-collar crime that the State Attorney’s Office has successfully prosecuted.

It is fundamentally unfair to everyone involved–suspects, victims, law enforcement, and prosecutor–to try an investigation in the media. The Sun and its readers should be aware that Florida Law [119.071(2)(c)1, Fl. Stat. (2021)] and the rules regulating the Florida Bar [Rule 4-3.6(a)] require that law enforcement officers and prosecutors refrain from disclosing information on pending criminal investigations. Yet, the Sun has repeatedly called for, or published calls for, law enforcement and prosecutors to speak out and explain our actions in a pending case. Trying cases in the media, this case or any other, is not the role of the State Attorney’s Office or the Police Department.

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