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In Rare Move, Sheriff Is Publicly Critical of Judge’s Decision to Let Shooting Suspect Out of Jail

| November 21, 2017

Michael McRoberts in a recent Flagler County jail booking photo, left, and in his Florida Prison booking.

Michael McRoberts in a recent Flagler County jail booking photo, left, and in his Florida Prison booking.

Eight days ago two men were shot at 28 Seamanship Trail: Tristan George, 18, who lives there, and Michael McRoberts, 21, who does not.

When a woman dropped off McRoberts at the hospital, he gave a false name to authorities because he is on probation: he’d been sentenced to five years’ probation in a 2013 case, and was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in a series of 2014 cases that found him guilty on 11 counts, including burglary and drug charges.

A few weeks ago the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office established a most-wanted list to track local fugitives or individuals wanted on probation violations and other warrants. McRoberts was on the list for a probation violation, even before the shooting on Seamanship Trail. When individuals violate their probation, they’re usually booked at the jail without bond.

McRoberts was at the hospital for a week. He was discharged Monday, and booked at the Flagler County jail for his probation violation. He had his first appearance before Circuit Judge Margaret Hudson this morning in Flagler court, when an assistant state prosecutor alluded to the fact that McRoberts is also a suspect in the shooting a week ago, though he’s not been charged.

Judge Margaret Hudson in Flagler court last week. (© FlaglerLive)

Judge Margaret Hudson in Flagler court last week. (© FlaglerLive)

Hudson was sitting in for Judge Dennis Craig. Defense attorney Kip Miller argued that because McRoberts was injured (he had walked into the first-appearance room on a walker, laid down for parts of the proceeds and reportedly had a colostomy following the shooting), he should be allowed to go home and be under house arrest rather than remain at the jail.

Hudson agreed. McRoberts was released from jail today shortly after noon. He is restricted to his house absent a valid medical reason, or an appointment in court.

The decision dismayed Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly, who said the judge’s decision is emblematic of a problem in the justice system, where violent felons are allowed out of jail, either putting the community at risk should they reoffend or straining law enforcement’s resources should they flee.

“On one hand at least the taxpayer is not having to pay for his medical bills,” Staly said, “but this is a guy that tried to avoid capture by giving us a false name, that was less than forthcoming on the incidents surrounding this double shooting and his participation. I think he’s a dangerous individual and while I know he has injuries, part of criminal activity–that’s the danger you get. And I feel that for the safety of this community, he should have been kept in jail. This is a symptom of a problem in the criminal justice system.” He added: “We make a lot of arrests and they get out of jail and go back doing the same thing until the system takes a hard penalty at them.”

Assistant State Attorney Dominic Piscitello argued unsuccessfully that McRoberts was receiving care in jail and should be kept there, keeping the bond at none. McRoberts’s address is listed as 1 Westbriar Place in Palm Coast.

Staly said house arrest may have been appropriate for a drunk-driver offender who made a mistake or a drug user who had a relapse, but not for what he described as a “violent offender” who purposefully hampered deputies’ investigation into the shooting. Staly acknowledged that no charges have been filed against him following the shooting—or against anyone. There will be arrests in the case, Staly said, but who and when is yet to be determined. The sheriff hasn’t officially spoken of the shooting as a drug deal gone bad, but authorities have strong suspicions that drugs were involved. And McRoberts does have convictions on drug crimes.

“Let’s say he’s a drug dealer,” Staly said. “He can still make deals from his house. Just because he’s laid up at home doesn’t stop criminal activity. It’s very disappointing when my detectives and my deputies work very hard to make arrests to clear cases and then they’re right back out on the street.”

Sheriff Staly at the scene of the Seamanship Trail shooting last week, with detectives and command staff behind him. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Sheriff Staly at the scene of the Seamanship Trail shooting last week, with detectives and command staff behind him. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Judges are not arbitrary when they allow individuals to bond out: they don’t follow their whims but actual pre-set bond schedules, and bonding out in most cases is a fundamental right of the accused. But there are gray areas. There are times when a judge may decide to revoke bond—or, as was the case this morning, opt for house arrest rather than jail as a man awaits the next step in his court case.

Still, it’s unusual for a law enforcement official to directly criticize the decision of a judge. And judges don’t get to respond: no judge will speak publicly, outside of court, on an ongoing case. Staly is aware. But he has also been sensitive to public criticism when suspects bond out: he did not want his agency blamed for what’s strictly in the court’s purview. Just as clearly, he was looking to send a signal—perhaps even to pressure judges to take a tougher stance, at least when they have a choice.

“I think it’s my position or my responsibility to speak out for the safety of this community, and that’s what I’m doing,” Staly said.  “We all need to work together in the system but it’s decisions like this that cause the community to lose faith in the criminal justice system, and it’s frustrating to the men and women of the sheriff’s office. This issue is not specific to our community, it occurs everywhere. If this person had not tried to use a false identity, then maybe I would have a different opinion on the judge’s decision in this case. But when the person is trying to avoid arrest, to avoid responsibility for their actions by using somebody else’s name, then to me that’s a flight risk. I don’t care how badly you’re injured. Let’s say if he flees after he’s well enough to do that. Now I have to spend a bunch of resources to track him down and bring him back from wherever he is.”


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59 Responses for “In Rare Move, Sheriff Is Publicly Critical of Judge’s Decision to Let Shooting Suspect Out of Jail”

  1. Steve Naso says:

    No wonder the crime rate in Palm Coast is going out of control. The judiciary handcuffs the Sheriff’s Office.

  2. Thomas says:

    It musy be very discouraging to have to deal with Flagler County judges.

  3. Deidre says:

    I totally agree with sheriff Staly.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Judge Hudson is a fair and impartial Judge with integrity. She would not do anything to bring harm to the public and she is saving the Flagler County Taxpayer’s dollars by letting this man stay at home. State law requires medical conditions must be paid for by the taxpayers of the jurisdiction’s retention facility, whether Local or State.

  5. Edman says:

    It would also help if our Governor provide the funds needed to fully staff our judiciary.

  6. Dave says:

    Staly you are a cop not a judge, please sit down. That is the problem with law enforcement these days, they judge the people they arrest. Cops are not judges, but simply servants to perform duties without judgement. A cop with an opinion is a dangerous thing

  7. Anonymous says:

    You get paid Staly to do your job–quit the complaining and do it. You should be proactive and stop crimes and drug dealing before it gets so out of hand. As much drug crime is out there you should be making a bust a day, but your not. You are too busy hot-doggin.

  8. woody says:

    We will see them in the news again shortly,hopefully an innocent person won’t be killed.

  9. Female Veteran says:

    @ Dave… completely agree with you!! He should stay in his lane.. like you said he’s NOTa Judge. It doesn’t look too profesional to be speaking publicly about these issues and his personal feelings in public to be posted all over the community.. if anything he’s just fueling the fire regarding the community not respecting the judicial system.. it seems like he’s already working on his re-election.

  10. Figures says:

    @female veteran everything he has done since being elected has been towards his re election lol …never seen so many news articles and public video statements .. he is trying to out shine sheriff chitwood next door , but pretend he is sheriff Judd with all the strong language .. honestly we don’t know who this sheriff really is .. he has been a copycat sort of taking a little from each sheriff in the area . The good thins is they are more proactive now so I guess we can take that with the bad …there is nothing wrong with ccriticizing the judicial process, especially the juvenile judicial process …

  11. layla says:

    The Sheriff has every right to make a public statement on this. As he stated, it is his deputies who must put their own lives on the line to pick this man up the next time he offends. Very easy to criticize, isn’t it? Especially when you’re doing it anonymously.

    I support the Sheriff on this one. I’m wondering how prepared Judge Hudson was to hear this case. If and when this man commits another crime, it’s on her. This isn’t helpful to the community and that’s where her head should be. Very disappointed in Judge Hudson.

  12. Really says:

    He , the Sheriff has every right to speak up because it is his responsibility when LEO are put in harms way due to some bleeding heart Judge who lets dirt bags like this and others off easy. Who has to go tell the Family of a deceased LEO when one goes down.Killed because some Judge lets a repeat loser out again and again.I say fill the green roof in and launch it to another planet or worse. Are you people stupid.! Smh in disgust

  13. Linze says:

    The sheriff is right,
    That guy should have been in prison before this happed
    We need tough judges

  14. Violet says:

    Well, I for one want the bad guys locked up. Too much going on that someone who’s been in trouble that much, is free to go home and do whatever. The Sheriff knows a lot more about this guy than any of us and from where I’m sitting, he and his officers are trying their best to clean up the crap druggies and violent criminals around here. If he felt he needed to speak up, I think he deserves a pat on the back!!! I’m totally backing our Sheriff…NOT the idiot druggie.

  15. palmcoaster says:

    I have to agree with Sheriff Staly this time, as I see too many of this dangerous felons out on bail over and over again, like the Thomas Rando that while driving probably DUI, with a suspended license and without tail gate lights into I-95 lost control of his pick up roller over into the median rail with all on board not wearing seat belts and a 10 year old passenger girl was killed. Look at the wrap sheet of Rando. I am all for drug rehab but not in the manner that is done now. We affected residents are working effectively with our Sheriff officers catching addicted, dealers and prostitution with all kinds of drugs and paraphernalia on them driving with suspended licenses and then…on the court hearings are let go on bail…paid by some of their significant wealthy locals and dealers. If anyone wants to rehab these felons they need to be incarcerated to be effective. Our dedicated sheriff officers are doing a great job catching them and the courts let them go back again among us. This has nothing to do with next elections or politics is the dangerous reality. I personally like judge Hudson but I think this time she has been too lenient.

  16. Really says:

    @Anon The Judge may have all the integrity etc in the World the fact is that the criminals that she and other Judges set free dont ok. They, the Judges, make choices that I and others dont agree with. It may all be done with good intent but the wash rinse repeat dirt bags in the system are the devils in the detail. Proof it aint working. Familiar with the definition of insanity?……….

  17. Really says:

    @female vet Hes entitled to an opn . They taught you that in the Military. Damn straight hes working on re election. We should all feel lucky to have him.You are dangerous due to ignorance.

  18. Steadfastandloyal says:

    The points Staly made are 100% accurate. Are people really believing this guy isn’t a potential harm to the community and to the police serving the public? The Sheriff is entitled to speak his mind as many public servants do, but he holds the distinction of putting his life and those of his deputies on the line for us. Being a judge doesn’t mean your decisions are beyond refute.

  19. Yourstruly says:

    I have often thought that you, Sheriff Stally, like to be the “center of attention ” in every case, and perhaps of a “public speaker.” Although Sir, my hat off to your words in this matter. Job well done Sheriff! If this forum or news release, is up for debate, YOU got my vote!

  20. MannyHM says:

    Who pays for his health care after he was shot ?

  21. Nun-ya says:

    I agree with Staly! The system is so flawed. These men and women spend countless hours, putting their lives at risk for this community to make these arrests just for these repeat offenders to be put back on the streets to do the same things over and over. Look at the record of the guy that was driving the truck in that accident that killed that little girl, Thomas Rando. He’s got 6 arrests in the last 2 years and one back in 2008. I hate to hear people talk like the local police department doesn’t do their job, I hear it a lot and it’s really the courts that are causing these repest offenders. I can see where you couple of commenters are coming from, telling Staly to “stay in his lane”, but if people (the sheriff and the community) don’t speak up about it then it will never change.

  22. ASF says:

    No electronic monitoring device, huh? That one should have been a no-brainer for this judge.

  23. Haley Martin says:

    Being the next door neighbor of this shooting with a 5 year old son in one room and my mother asleep in the room RIGHT next to the “action”, I’m gonna have to COMPLETELY agree with Staly. ALL of the officials and first responders that were there working to help solve this ONGOING drug problem at my neighbors, did a great job. It really freaking sucks to go right back to feeling unsafe at my own house. I know there’s dangers in this world and crazies on the streets, but there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t have to suffer lawful consequences of their actions.

  24. JasonB says:

    Exactly the reason I didn’t vote for Staly, he wants to be judge, jury, and executioner … a little power always goes to a Republican’s head.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Dave-You are absolutely right. Staly has disrespected the Judge’s judgment and he is not the Judge. He is a hot dog always wanting to be in the media and in front of the camera. I agree with Judge Hudson, we should not be paying his medical bills and furthermore he has not yet been convicted. What do you have to say Staly about all of those who have been convicted, served their time and are back on the streets? Get to work! Do your job and leave the Judge’s job up to the Judge. Time for you to step down a notch.

  26. HonkeyDude says:

    I agree with Dave and FV. To me the Sheriff looks ignorant running his mouth off like this judging and profiling people. If he wanted to make a stand on this it would have been simpler and better to just rearrest him on another vop or petitioned for another vop warrant.

  27. Martin Luther says:

    Let me see if I have this straight. The subject in question is a convicted burglar and either are user or dealer and drugs. He’s on probation instead of in prison. The idea of probation is to see whether or not the convicted felon can live outside of prison without getting into some other type of criminal activity. It is A second chance, an opportunity for one to prove that the previous brush with the law is s singular event and not a trend. Apparently this gentleman has failed completely in that regard. His probation should probably be revoked and his original sentence of actual prison time should be reinstated. He should not be on the street. You should be somewhere I would ensure that he is not committing crimes against those of us who are living within the law.

  28. jugaloom says:

    Slim shady

  29. Anonymous says:

    Edman-The judge made a decision—her decision has nothing to do with judiciary funding. The judiciary is adaquately funded–it is unreasonable that nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year goes to funding each judge on the bench! That is way out of line as many other professionals are not as fortunate to being paid so handsomely. In this case Judge Hudson made the right call and was sensitive to what it was going to cost us tax payers while he sat in jail for his medical and care. The man is innocent until proven guilty. The Sheriff here is meddling in territory that he has no business. It speaks volumes of this Sheriff’s judgment when he questions or disagrees with a Judge’s decision. One day Staly may be before Judge Hudson and then he may think differently. Right now with all the controversy surrouding the FCSO it appears Staly needs to clean up his own house. Good call Judge!

  30. Old Hammock says:

    Everyone, is entitled to opinions and just because the Sheriff is the Chief Law Enforcement official for the county doesn’t make him exempt from not doing so. He did the honorable thing by informing the public that this violent parolee is out on the street again and why he is (house arrest means nothing to career criminals).

    Judge Hudson did what she believed was judicially correct. Hopefully she’s right in this case saving the taxpayers money for his bad decisions and stupidity. Otherwise, she’ll have mud on her face and most likely will never own up to her mistake. Judges hardly ever do.

  31. GT says:

    It’s simple if this guy commits another crime or flees let the judge serve him time.

  32. Suburps says:

    Now this guy gets a never ending supply of pain pills for his injuries and gets to freely sell or ration them out from the couch he’s bunking on. Backwards world we live in.

  33. Concerned Observer says:

    I totally agree with Sherriff Staly and commend the actions of his office in doing everything in it’s power (and purview) to keep Flagler County and its citizenry safe. On so many occasions of late, the county judicial system has been a catch-and-release agency. That is fine policy for fish and game but not for an agency entrusted with protecting the public. The systems pendulum has swung too far to the left, repeatedly showing concern solely with protecting the rights of repeat offenders of dangerous crimes and well established behavior of wanton disregard of the laws and the civil rights of our community. There must be consequences for their antisocial criminal behavior or it will continue. We have a right to be safe from drug dealers and sociopaths. We have a right to feel safe driving on our highways. I applaud the actions Sherriff Staly and of our deputies and cannot imagine their utter frustration of seeing dangerous criminals routinely released into society. Sherriff Staly need not be, as commented to this article, “already working on his re-election”. Like Sherriff Staly, our judges are also elected. The voters need to get their attention when elections roll around. Sherriff Staly has shown repeatedly in his short tenure that he is a lawman in every sense of the word. Thank you sir! You already have my vote. Our judges, not so much.

  34. johng says:

    Unfortunately whether or not he is in a state facility, we all pay for indigent care – it all trickles down

  35. Mark says:

    Lock them up and bill them for their stay! Liberal ninnies. Let them live next door to the judge and see what happens to them.

  36. Brian says:

    I just hope that the next time we read about this McRoberts character in the News Journal or here on Flagler Live that the article includes his obituary. That goes for all of the violent criminals that Flagler County judges set free on technicalities and other gray areas. I don’t see why he couldn’t have spent time in Sheriff Staly’s Extended Stay laid up in a bed just like he can at home. And people wonder why some cops in many cities have taken the law into their own hands. This country’s judiciary is creating real life Judge Dredds across the nation! They are basically telling our law enforcement officers to continue arresting the same people hundreds of times, wasting more resources and funds than would be used to incarcerate these thugs for a few years.
    It’s simple. Do away with bail. Let people sit their ass in jail and just maybe they will actually find the rehabilitation that jail is supposed to provide.

  37. Sherry says:

    The police are NOT hired or educated or trained to be Judge and Jury! Such things “should” only be happening in Dictatorships! You know, the system that trump is trying to implement.

    Our judicial system is specifically set up to create a wide separation and independence between law enforcement and the process of justice. Remember the days of “innocent until proven guilty” ? A little something that evolved from the 6th amendment to the bill of rights.

    While I can certainly understand his frustrations with the revolving door in such a case, it is extremely unprofessional for the sheriff to complain publicly about any judges decisions. Thank goodness we are not YET living in a totalitarian regime.

  38. johng says:

    Sheriff Staly is out on the Front Line defense, He know better. This convict may have unfinished business – watch out.

  39. Bc. says:

    Wow people sticking up for this criminal that’s funny. Lets hope you and you family’s don’t have the Misfortune of being his next victim. Lock this guy up for a long time he should be eating his turkey in jail MAGA🇺🇸

  40. Trailer Bob says:

    Thank you for you hard work Sheriff. The judge should’ve made the punk criminal wear an ankle bracelet while at home. I bet he is already back to selling meth.

  41. Trailer Bob says:

    “Man at Wheel of Truck in Crash That Killed 10-Year-Old Arrested on Drug Charges; Cited 3 Times in Last 6 Months For No License” So here again goes the life of an innocent person (child) due to the judicial system and liberal judges.

  42. Katie Semore says:

    @Brian, I didn’t see where you addressed an accused’s congressional right to due process in your proposed solutions.

  43. GM2 says:

    So less than 48 hours later he is arrested again ! ? ! Looks like Sheriff Staley called that one right. Crooks belong jail (especially REPEAT OFFENDERS) !

  44. fredrick says:

    Sherry I agree with you “Thank goodness we are not YET living in a totalitarian regime.” . We just got out of one and just missed staying in one with HRC. Thank goodness, screwing over Bernie, lying through her teeth, and all her illegal activities, plus having the media on her side were not enough to win when matched against a moron like Trump. We really dodged a bullet. America is on it’s way to greatness again. People are starting to take responsibility for themselves. How are your IRA’s and 401K’s doing since November?

  45. Really says:

    Ignorance abounds in this County lol Got get em Staly and never shut up

  46. Pat Patterson says:

    I agree with Sheriff Staly. Judge Craig, and now this Judge, are more supportive of the criminals than the innocents. Have seen this for the 15 years I have lived in Flagler County. The Sheriff’s Department should have charged this worm immediately rather than wait. It may not have mattered with these soft Judges; but, at least, the Sheriff’s Office would have done everything they could have done. The rest is up to these soft Judges that need to be replaced. Sheriff Staly is not “judging” the worms they arrest; however, he has sense enough to know this worm was involved in a shooting as well as his past record, etc. and that he should be in jail, not relaxing at home. Staly has been the best Sheriff Flagler County has had since Fleming was Sheriff. I, for one, have been very happy with his performance. I can only imagine how awful crime would be without him with the revolving doors at the Courthouse.

  47. ScrewedByTheSystem says:

    Yet, I have no felonies, no serious record, and am a recovering drug addict who has been clean over a year. BUT i spent TWO MONTHS in county jail last year (thanksgiving AND Christmas) for driving on a suspended license, and for a domestic abuse charge, where I WAS THE VICTIM, but since I’ve got a record I’m automatically the bad guy. Its unfair and totally backwards to let people like this out, yet punish non violent drug offenders so harshly, you have to have a felony to get the legal system to send you to rehab or even attempt to help in any way. We need to change something..

  48. Really says:

    Rearrested tryin to skip town. The thought of any individual that the Sheriff doesnt know whst hes talking about and his OPINION should be kept quiet heres your answer lmao

  49. Dave says:

    I see people sticking up for the Judge not the criminal

  50. Old Hammock says:

    I obviously missed something, but where does it read in the article that the police are the “Judge & Jury”? Sheriff Staly merely gave his opinion and last I checked that’s covered under an constitutional amendment whether he’s the Sheriff or just a citizen like you and I.

  51. C'mon man says:

    This guy was just arrested again after being released. Staly was right once again.

  52. Really says:

    @ANON HE is NOT innocent until proven anything. He VIOLATED parole/probation which instantly the prior punishment should be invoked. What are you talking about SMH

  53. Anonymous says:

    Sheriff Staley needs to stick to LEGALLY enforcing the law PERIOD. We live by laws that are based on due process. When Judges issue lessor sentences or dismiss cases that we feel should not have been thrown out, it is usually due to the poorly trained or over zealous police officers, who don’t know or who don’t care about a citizens right to due process. Most police are of average intelligence with very little training in law and make the mistakes that are the cause of most cases being thrown out on technicalities which tie a Judge’s hands from dealing out true justice. Sheriff Staley is entitled to his opinion, but lacks the qualifications to be a Judge. Sherriff Staley needs to remember when you point a finger at someone you have four more pointing back at yourself. Until law enforcement officers are better trained and stop making the mistakes that cause Judges to throw out cases, they should be respectful and remain quiet.

  54. Yourstruly says:

    It looks like this thug will be eating turkey at the Green Roof Inn! Thanks FCSD for this one

  55. Fernando Melendez says:

    As a new resident in Palm Coast, I definitely am concerned of this judge’s decision on cutting this guy loose. We need to support our Sheriff’s Department and their hard work in apprehending these thugs. I’ll happily pay the taxes needed to keep him in custody.

  56. Dave says:

    All the fuss about nothing, you people the Judge did knw what she was doing. Now this criminal got himself locked up good and there was no need to trample our constitution. We can still be patriotic Americans and also have justice. No need to destroy what t
    Makes this coy try great over a lilm fear mongering from the sheriff

  57. Anonymous says:

    Dave–this is not a lot of fuss about nothing. The Judge made a decision and the Sheriff interjected his opinion and criticized her decision which is inappropriate and unacceptable. It doesn’t matter if the idiot committed another crime after he was given a chance or not, all he did is show he can’t be trusted and is begging for help or to be jailed. The Sheriff is not qualified to be a Judge, was not elected to be a Judge and should not criticize the Judge–He needs to focus on doing his job and stopping crime before it occurs.

  58. Dave says:

    Anonymous you confuse me. We seem to have all the same views on this matter yet you seem to think our view is different, I’ll say it again , THE JUDGE DID KNOW WHAT SHE WAS DOING, so anyone going against our judge and our justice system, like the sheriff is ,might as well trample the constitution

  59. Anonymous says:

    Dave–I am glad we can agree.

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