Sheriff Donald F Eslinger
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Trayvon Martin’s Homicide Investigation:

Records destroyed, Incompetence or a Criminal Act?

If you are looking for our opinion as to the outcome of the prosecution of George Zimmerman you need not bother with reading any further. Our opinion as well as yours along with $5.50 will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

The focus of this article is to inform our readers of the actions of individuals within the Sanford Police Department as well as those of individuals employed within the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. It is our hope that this article will provide information which will reveal what actions were taken and to expose the relationship between the former Sanford Chief of Police Billy Lee and employees of the Seminole County Sheriff’s office.

Our investigation into the homicide began on March 30th 2012. Knowing that information would be rather restrictive seeing as how an ongoing investigation was under way and how the backwoods City of Sanford Florida had been propelled into the eyes of the entire world, we decided to take a different approach. As it is with all small police departments the Chief of Police can become actively involved in any investigation that he or she chooses to become involved with.

In an attempt to discover just how involved Chief Lee was in the homicide investigation into the shooting of Trayvon Martin we decided to locate any and all communication records of Chief Lee from the moment of the shooting until one hour after the initial release from custody of the suspect identified as George Zimmerman. A public records request was made for the following:

"1. All cell phone, blackberry or text messages (cell phone records received or made on his department issued phone to include phone numbers) from former Chief Bill Lee to and from all persons ." (1)

To say that our records request was handled in a professional manner would be an out right lie.

After four months of waiting, we were advised that our request identified as Public Records Request # 60 was still being work on.

On September 12, 2012 we were informed that Crime Analyist Jennifer Blake had not yet completed her work in order that a subpoena be issued to Sanford Police Departments own phone carriers AT&T and Sprint. Now anyone that owns their own business knows that this is “bull “. You do not need a court order to get your own phone records. This fact would be verified five months later on February 27, 2013 by Ms. Jennifer Blake. (2)

So after eleven months the public records were finally obtained, or were they?(3) Ms. Jennifer Blake advised:

"Per Gary Dockery with Sprint Subpoena Compliance, text messages are only retained for a 7 day period and voice messages are only retained for 20 days and/or 30 days if saved on the phone. At the time (3/30/2012) of your request the information retention period for sprint had expired and the information could not be retrieved."

Let us take a closer look at just this issue. There is no question as to the fact that the records obtained on a Police Department issued cell phone (text messages and phone messages) to the Sanford Chief of Police are public records. As public records their collection, security and retention are mandated by Florida State Statute 119.07.(4) Since it cannot be the responsibility of Sprint to "save" these records, who is responsible? Is it possible that Chief Lee was the “Custodian of Records” for the records on his department issued cell phone? Or did Chief Lee assign this responsibility to one of his employees? Either way we will never know what information was on the phone since incompetence kicked in. Or was it being lazy or how about the excuse, "I did not know that these records needed to be saved", or "I did not know that there was a law". Or was it criminal? After all it is a crime to violate the public records law.

If this alone was not an example of a backwoods Police Department then let us look into additional facts presented by Ms. Blake in her February 27, 2013 reply:

IT Manager, Chris McDeed advised the phone was "wiped clean" of its information and turned in during the Sprint upgrade from August 20 to September 20, 2012 to be recycled (destroyed) for raw materials and parts. McDeed advised the I.T. Department does not have an application/service to store phone records and that it was the "user's responsibility to record/store/provide those records."

Now this is so enlightening as once again it reveals the incompetence of members of the Sanford Police Department. Now remember our public records request was submitted on March 30, 2012. Almost five months later someone at the Sanford Police department authorized Chief Lee’s phone to be "wiped clean of its information". But to ensure that there would be no way to retrieve any information off of Chief Lee’s phone someone at the Sanford Police Department ordered the phone to be "destroyed for raw materials and parts." Notice how Mr. McDeed does not say that there is not an application/service capable to store phone records he simply advised that his I.T. Department did not have this form of application/service. And now we move onto the part of Mr. McDeed passing the buck. According to Mr. McDeed, it was the responsibility of Chief Lee to "record/store/provide those records".

Is it not sad that you will throw your former boss under the bus when the boss has been fired and is no longer in a position to hold the I.T. Department accountable. It would be interesting to find out if the I.T. Department ever notified any City employee that the I.T. Department did not obtain an application/service to store phone records and that it was the user’s responsibility to record/store/provide those records.

But this is nothing new for the City of Sanford, it is politics as usual. Cowards talk a lot when they can hide behind politics and in a backwoods City like Sanford Florida this type of behavior is business as usual. Forget all the appearances that brick streets, a cleaned up riverfront and an International Airport are attempting to portray. The City of Sanford is controlled by a handful of good ole boys who will not be made to do anything that they do not want to do.

Now, back to our story. Since Ms. Blake was able to inform SeminoleWatch.com what they did not have in the way of public records we were left with only the record of calls received and made from Chief Lee’s cell phone. Having obtained the records we then began the process of calling each of the phone numbers in an attempt to follow the actions of Chief Lee and to determine who Chief Lee was communicating with. Since the records of text messages have been destroyed we are unable to reveal anything but the chain of calls made on Chief Lee’s cell phone. (5)

On February 26, 2012 at 7:37:12 pm Chief Lee receives a call from Sanford Police Captain Scott. It is following this initial notification that things get interesting and the involvement with the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department is exposed. Now before we go too far it is important to remember that Chief Lee retired from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Department.

Chief Lee makes his first documented phone call to Nextel phone number 407-509-3245 at 8:28:03 pm his second call is again made to this unidentified person at 8:34:10 pm.

Chief Lee then calls Seminole County Sheriff’s Department (SCSO) Sgt. William Christensen at 8:50:07 pm. At 8:57:12 pm Sgt. Christensen calls Chief back. At the time of this article it is unknown what information was relayed to Sgt. Christensen nor the subject matter of the conversation. As facts are obtained our article will be updated. It has been verified that Sgt. Christensen was not on duty at the time of these conversations.

Following the conversation with Sgt. Christensen, Chief Lee makes contact with Sanford City Manager Norton N. Bonaparte Jr. , SPD Sgt. Dave Morgensen (Public Information Officer) and an unknown person at the Sanford Police Department.

Chief Lee then once again calls SCSO Sgt. William Christensen at 9:42:03 pm. Sgt. Christensen then calls Chief Lee back at 9:44:50 pm.

The last documented phone call was made at 11:11:12 pm by Chief Lee to City Manager Bonaparte. The following morning, February 27, 2012, Chief Lee receives a phone call from City Commissioner Mahany at 9:01:22 am. Commissioner Mahany advised that she contacted Chief Lee because the homicide took place in her district.

According to the records provided by Ms. Blake, Chief Lee makes only one phone call on his cell phone at 9:33:19 pm which is made to Chief Lee’s cell number 407-402-9789. It is believed that Chief Lee retrieved voice message(s) at this time. There are no other calls made nor received by Chief Lee all day until Chief Lee calls April Kirshman (407-474-4775) at 5:12:12 pm & 5:12:38 pm.

Ms. April Kirshman is the General Counsel for the Seminole County Sheriff’s office and calls Chief Lee back twice. Due to the length of Chief Lee’s two calls it appears as if Chief Lee may have only left a message on Ms. Kirshman’s phone. Ms. Kirshman then calls Chief Lee at 5:13:56 pm and again at 5:24:23 pm. At the time of this article it is unknown what the conversations concerned.

Contact was made with Ms. April Kirshman by contacting her Department issued cell phone. Upon advising Ms. Kirshman that the cell phone records of Chief Lee verified that Chief Lee had been in contact with her on Feb. 27, 2012, Ms. Kirshman immediately hung up the phone. It never ceases to amaze me how Public Servants act when they get caught doing something. The unprofessional and rude actions of Ms. Kirshman are typical for employees of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. Ms. Kirshman refuses to return our calls and answer a few simple questions.

Because of this unprofessional attitude, we at SeminoleWatch.com will share with you our attempt to obtain the facts as to just how involved the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office was into the initial investigation of the homicide of Trayvon Martin and the release from custody of George Zimmerman. (6)

If history is to repeat itself the answer to our inquiry will be obtained from Ms. Christy Peters (Custodian of Records Seminole County Sheriff’s Department). We expect that there will be "NO RECORDS RESPONSIVE TO YOUR REQUEST" from Ms. Peters, as is her normal reply. Or the reply will be something along the lines of: we will need approximately $500.00 to $1,000.00 to fulfill your request.

What seminolewatch.com and others known to us have come to realize is : The SCSO makes it very difficult to obtain public records and seems as if their position is that if they charge a lot of money for public records then for the most part the Citizen will not have the financial resources to pay the deposit. The SCSO under the leadership of Sheriff Eslinger is above the law when it comes to public records but then what can we expect from a public servant who has redefined words like adultery, truthfulness and integrity.

We believe that the public has the right to know what records were generated, what notes were kept and exactly how involved the SCSO and Sheriff Eslinger were in this City of Sanford homicide investigation.

Please feel free to call the phone numbers of the individuals associated with Chief Lee’s calls and maybe you can get to the truth.

CLICK ON BELOW DOCUMENTS:

  1. Email dated 6/5/2012 Public records request # 60
  2. Public records request documents # 60 dated February 27, 2013 cover letter.
  3. Public records request # 60 phone records
  4. FSS 119.07 Florida Public Records Law
  5. Summary of phone calls Chief Billy Lee
  6. Public Records request for communications of Ms. April Kirshman and Sgt. William Christensen

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing"
-Edmund Burke