Angela Corey letter to Frank Denton _Florida Times Union_ alleging libel

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Angela Corey letter to Frank Denton _Florida Times Union_ alleging libel Powered By Docstoc
					                                                                                 220 EAST BAY STREET
                                                                           JACKSONVILLE, FLORI DA 32202-3429
                                                                                 TEL: (904) 630-707S
                                                                                 FAX: (904) 630-2938

                                             ANGELA B . COREY
                                              STATE ATTORNEY
Frank Denton
Editor, Florida Times Union
1 Riverside Avenue
Jacksonville, Florida 32202

                                                               RE: Cristian Fernandez Editorial

Dear Frank:
         It is truly appalling that you would allow the opinion writer to enlist your publication to further
expose his lack of knowledge and objectivity about the workings of the criminal justice system. In this
case, as in numerous prior instances, he has shown his usual bias and rendered a wholly uninformed
opinion. However, this time he has crossed the journalistic line and in the minds of many, he has
committed libel. How sad that you and editorial staff were completely complicit with these actions. It is
one thing to criticize a public official...some even believe it is expected. It is nothing short of libelous to
call me or any lawyer in my office "unethical" when we are doing our jobs within the bounds of the law on
an extremely complicated case. It grants no pardon that you were repeating what ''those in the legal
community" told you. In fact, those lawyers are bound by rules of ethics which strictly prohibit them from
saying that very thing. Having their friend publish it for them does not absolve them of their ethical
obligations; it merely makes them cowards who have violated the Professional Code of Ethics.

        I will address the two most important aspects of this "editorial". First and foremost, the filing
decision in the Fernandez case was made with GREAT deliberation and only after 3 months of studying
all aspects of the case. Based on the undisputed evidence and an extremely disturbing series of
incidents early in Fernandez's life (which we are not at liberty to discuss), we made the decision that the
juvenile system was wholly inadequate to cope with this situation.

         The murder charges were already pending in adult court when the second serious crime was
brought to our attention. We timely informed the defense of this new charge, which we held in abeyance,
at their request, in a good faith effort to resolve this case.

       All negotiations contemplated formal charges being filed BEFORE pleas to these two unrelated
crimes, committed against two victims, were entered. Once the plea offer was turned down and a trial
date requested, the State lawfully sought a grand jury indictment on the second set of charges.

       Regarding the murder indictment, Florida law specifically allows for alternative charging (felony
murder and/or premeditated murder) and it is done in almost every first degree murder case, even though
we clearly stated at the time of the Indictment we believe that the stronger evidence here is for
aggravated child abuse/felony murder. A quick glance at the Florida standard jury instructions would
have confirmed that alternative charging is appropriate, as would research of the case law by your very
able Times Union lawyer or by asking any competent criminal defense attorney. Of course, a simple
phone call to me or to trial ASA's Mark Caliel or Alan Mizrahi would have sufficed as well.

        With regard to our "threat" to indict, we did not threaten, we merely indicated our intent to do our
job for the 5 year old child who was also victimized by Cristian Fernandez. In trying to do the most
expedient thing, we held off on the filing of the charges until the entry of a plea agreement was imminent.

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Take an objective look at what this jaundiced writer actually said :

         "If the first-degree murder indictment was sought without "any intention to seek a life sentence,"
          as Corey says, but was meant to be used as a bargaining chip, there are those in the legal
          community who say that would be an "egregious violation of the rules of professional conduct which
         prosecutors must follow."

       Again, there was no threat, rather the carrying out of our constitutional and statutory duty, but
even had there been a threat, the United States Supreme Court has spoken to this very issue.

        Given the abundantly clear and uniform opinions of both the Florida and United States Supreme
Courts, it defies belief that "legal experts" (plural) would assert so bluntly that the election to file charges
(or not to file) in the context of plea negotiations is somehow unethical per se. Obviously your writer
failed to vet these so-called anonymous "experts," or else he misquoted them. Either way, he should
identify them so the determination can be made. His obvious failure to do even the most basic of fact-
checking before writing something so embarrassingly incorrect warrants that his future submissions
ought to be viewed with a great deal more circumspection before they are permitted to occupy ink in your

       One of our ASA's addressed this very issue in a memorandum he filed in answer to a similar
claim. Excerpts from that memorandum are attached hereto.          Please feel free to share it with your
sources in the legal community. Better yet, I urge you again to enlighten us as to exactly who they are
and I will be happy to discuss any and all of these issues with them face to face. Had such a discussion
taken place, perhaps their inexplicable act of complaining " off the record" so that it could be repeated
"on the record" by a writer with questionable motives, would have yielded a responsible editorial.

        The real shame in this matter, is that those rendering uninformed opinions about this case have
completely overlooked the TRUE victim in all of this: the helpless and vulnerable 2 year old David
Galla raga.

        As for me and this office, we will always fight hard, but always fight within the bounds of the law,
to seek justice for children like David!

          As to the final cheap shot he took regarding my relationship with Matt Shirk, I find it ironic,
actually hypocritical, that Littlepage has never voiced an issue with a defense attorney such as Hank
Coxe being too close with former SA Shorstein or supporting Shorstein in any given election.        It also
flies in the face of both common sense and the history in this community where two stellar public officials
with opposing constitutional duties- Ed Austin and Lou Frost- long term State Attorney and Public
Defender, went head to head in the courtroom but maintained an extremely close, personal friendship
throughout their careers. Attached, please peruse your own TU article which quotes Mr. Austin
extensively about this subject.       Since the same lawyers who whispered to Littlepage apparently
complained to Folio as well, I have included my response to Folio's query.

         Shirk and I will continue to be friends while simultaneously fighting for our respective interests in

       At least, we will always do it openly, honestly and fairly- concepts Littlepage and his cronies will
never understand.


                                                 Angela B. Corey
                                                 State Attorney
                                                 Fourth Judicial Circuit

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