Dennis Ward, State’s Attorney for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.
The judicial consolidation issue may not be completely done.
Ward said, “This guy Renner, the Speaker of the House, came out and said he’s not going to pursue it any longer. But he also came up with another bill where they want to give the Attorney General more power over the 20 elected state attorneys to control the cases that they prosecute, the cases that they don’t prosecute, have some type of disciplinary action, I would imagine they’re going to put in there for state attorneys not prosecuting the cases that they see fit. They being the people that are currently in power. I’m sure that will change if we get Democrats in there. They’ll come and criticize us and discipline us for not going and prosecuting or not prosecuting cases the way that they want to have them prosecuted. Just take a look at these vacation rentals, look at that whole issue. Then talk to the people in Key West and you get the cruise ship issue. I mean, there’s so many things that Tallahassee has stepped in and taken control over. This all goes back to firearms, back in the mid 70s, I think all the different municipalities and counties would have their own registering of firearms and if you were in their jurisdiction with a firearm that wasn’t registered in their jurisdiction, they could arrest you. So finally, the state took control of that and said, no, no, no, we’re going to preempt the field there. That was the first one I remember and I think that was legitimate for them to do that, because you’re driving from one municipality through another couple of municipalities and you get pulled over for a traffic stop or something and they see a gun in there and it’s not registered, it’s crazy. That’s the first one I remember.”
The treehouse murder case is moving forward. The Stock Island murder case is moving, too, going into 2024.
Ward said, “We have a few of them. I think, after maybe, I guess, next month is probably going to be the Duvall Street shooting case is coming back, I believe that’s set for February. We still have part of the Stand Your Ground hearing to go. We’ve got to get on the judge and my prosecutors to get that going here so we can get that one off the books. We have a few old old homicides that we need to deal with. We’re going to try and get to them and hopefully the judges will get these things on calendar and push the attorneys and get these things settled and resolved.”
Drugs are still a serious issue in Monroe County.
Ward said, “We work very closely with the sheriff’s office and the Key West Police Department on these drug cases and we try and send these people off to prison with as much time as we can possibly get depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. The sheriff and I have partnered up and we seek first degree murder charges on these fentanyl overdose cases. So we’re going to continue to do that. I think, hopefully knock on wood, the words starting to spread that, if you go down there and sell that fentanyl and they can connect you to it and somebody dies, you’re going to be charged with first degree murder. Well you’ll be charged with second and we’ll go to the grand jury and hopefully they’ll bounce it up to a first degree murder him. So we’ll continue to do that. I saw the sheriff had some interesting cases, one up there at CVS where these guys just went in, cleaned out a lot of the shelves on the store, got captured. This ain’t San Francisco. This ain’t Los Angeles. So I look forward to meeting up with those people in court and hopefully we’ll send them off to prison. Crime never stops, but we can certainly make a dent in it.”
Resource violations are another area that will see prosecutions.
Ward said, “We have to because those resources, I mean, they’re a big engine for our economy, you look around and see what the contribution is and it’s significant. So one of the things I see is Captain Bill Kelly is retiring from his position as the executive director of the Florida Keys Commercial Fishermen. That guy did a great job doing that and provided me with so many statistics that he put together over the years. Just the impact of taking one undersized lobster, how that impacts on the ability for that lobster to breed and have eggs and certainly contribute to the growth of the lobster population. Just one of those things and the amount of money that commercial fishing generates in the Florida Keys, he’s got stats on that. It’s just phenomenal. We’re going to miss him. They got a good guy coming in behind them and I think he’ll do a great job too.”
It seems like a number of reports show a lot of people resisting arrest recently.
Ward said, “We’ve been dealing with that issue since before I was a law enforcement officer. They see these things on TV and in the news programs, and certainly, law enforcement officers are a little squeamish about these misdemeanor crimes, and putting their careers and their freedom on the line to enforce these misdemeanor crimes, when they don’t know if this subject is going to fight them or get into a situation where they have to use force and sometimes people die. Sometimes the force is ruled not necessary, but until you’re on the ground rolling around with someone and I was a few times, I distinctly remember one try to pull my gun out of my holster, it’s a fight for life and death. You see these TV shows with five foot two inch female police officers decking, six foot four, 250 found muscle bound guys with one punch to the jaw or in the belly and flipping them up and down and because of Hollywood, people think, oh, yeah, this is reality. Well, it’s not reality. If they want to see reality, I’ll take them out for a ride and we’ll take a ride to some of these places, and get on out there with some of these officers and see what they do every day and these deputies what they do every day. Key West PD people were being assaulted and battered down on Duvall Street and I told my prosecutors on these batteries on police officers, I want jail time in these cases. And guess what? We hardly see those anymore down there. It may take a little bit more up and down the county. We certainly want to get involved with the officers and find out how they want us to handle the case. We’ll check with them, but my policy is that if you’re going to threaten a police officer, a law enforcement officer, deputy, or you’re actually going to batter a deputy, then be prepared for the circumstances and the consequences. There seems to be a little tick. I think it’s all generated by the media and these TV shows.”