All Charges Dropped Against Charlie Faulkner in Tendentious Arrest Over Political Sign Removal
FlaglerLive | June 15, 2016
All charges have been dropped in the dubious case against Charlie Faulkner, the Flagler Beach developer who last month faced three criminal charges stemming from his removal of a political campaign sign from a property he manages on State Road 100, opposite the Target shopping center.
The case triggered an outcry, not least from Faulkner, his family and his lawyer, who termed the arrest and jail booking of the 63-year-old engineer an overreach by a sheriff’s deputy. The deputy contacted the political candidate about his sign—and erroneously assumed in his report that the sign was permitted to be on that property—but not the owner of the land Faulkner managers, to verify Faulkner’s claim. Chris Yates, the candidate for sheriff, admitted in an interview that he had not secured permission to place his sign on that property.
According to a sheriff’s spokesman, the deputy had called Yates after getting Yates’s phone number from Flagler County Dispatch (the 911 center). The spokesman said Yates had followed correct procedure.
Faulkner told the deputy that he routinely removed political signs from properties he manages, when their peddlers have not been given permission to place them there. Faulkner had a similar run-in with ex-Elections Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks six years ago, at the same location, over a Weeks sign Faulkner removed. Weeks—who is under felony indictments in an unrelated case—accused Faulkner of grand theft. The charge, as in the more recent case, was eventually tossed.
But in both cases Faulkner had to contend with frivolous criminal charges against him, and with the permanence of a record in the court and jail system.
Following the arrest on May 27, which included a drunk driving charge—although Faulkner was not at the wheel of his vehicle when he was arrested, but merely approaching it—Faulkner hired attorney Josh Davis to handle the case. (The drunk driving charge was also dropped.) Davis was the attorney of record in the previous high-profile embarrassment for the sheriff, the false arrest of a young man on a criminal charge, because the deputy had mixed up with name with that of another person without carrying out the usual steps to ensure against a mis-identification.
Davis then unleashed a barrage of motions—a common tactic by defense attorneys hoping to signal to the state attorney their intent to do battle to the smallest detail, in hopes of gaining an early dismissal of the case. Davis sought to suppress the original confessions by Faulkner at the scene, where Faulkner spoke of the sign in question and why he had removed it. Davis’ motion claimed the statements were obtained illegally (though based on the deputy’s arrest report, Faulkner, who knows his rights, had appeared to have provided them voluntarily).
On May 31, Davis filed a motion to dismiss the charges. He argued that the charging affidavit was vague, ambiguous, and unsupported by sworn testimony or fact, among other claims.
On Tuesday, the state attorney’s office in a filing with circuit court said it was dropping all three charges against Faulkner. Faulkner could not be reached Wednesday afternoon. Davis, however, provided a statement: “We are very pleased that the State Attorney’s Office made the correct decision. This is yet another instance in which the leadership at the FCSO has failed this community. As more facts become clear, a decision will be made about further legal action. Hopefully the people of this county will remember these blatant abuses of office come election time.”
Candidates for local office are required to complete a registration form with the clerk of court. As of June 3, according to an email from the clerk of court’s office, only five had done so (Tom Bexley, Don Fleming, Kimble Medley, Jerry O’Gara and Rick Staly). The clerk’s office subsequently corrected that tally, providing a spreadsheet showing that Abra Seay and Kaiti Lenhart had also done so by June 3. John Lamb did so on that date. The clerk includes a notice at the top of its web page on the matter: “Entering upon private property for the purpose of erecting a Political Sign without the consent of the property owner may constitute a trespass in violation of Section 810.09, Florida Statutes.”