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Palm Coast Offender Branded a Sexual Predator 5 Years After Prison, With No New Sex Crime

| July 1, 2016

dorian buzz coppedge

Dorian Buzz Coppedge, also known as Dorian Johnson and ‘Diamond,’ in a state prison photo and a Flagler jail mugshot.

Thursday evening, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office sent out notice that a sexual predator had moved to town. The sheriff’s office is required by law to make those notices public. The notices do not apply to sexual offenders, a lower designation of individuals convicted of sex crimes. Predators are usually associated with violent sexual crimes such as rape.

The individual the sheriff’s office was identifying Thursday is Dorian Buzz Coppedge, who has also previously identified himself as Dorian Johnson, and is known by his street name, Diamond. Sheriff’s notices about sexual predators are routine, if rare. There are not that many predators in Flagler.

But four things stand out about Coppedge, 37: First, he didn’t just move to town. Coppedge “is now residing in Flagler County,” the sheriff’s notice stated, implying that he just had. In fact, Coppedge has been residing in Flagler County for almost five years, since his release from prison in January 2012, at his parents’ house in Palm Coast.

Second, while sex crimes he committed in 1999 and 2011 had resulted in convictions, he was not branded a predator, but an offender, all those years. He was branded a predator only nine weeks ago, long after leaving prison and without facing any additional charges since, other than for failing to register as an offender, a charge he’s faced several times since 1999. Previous such charges have been dropped. Not this time.

Third, Coppedge is now listed as homeless. At least that’s how the sheriff’s office identifies his residence in the release the office issued Thursday. His jail booking still lists 41 Louisiana Drive in Palm Coast, his parents’ address and also the home of his 6-year-old daughter.

Fourth, the Coppedge case shows to what extent the sheriff’s office goes to build a case against individuals—including individuals who have served their sentence and are not on probation, though in Coppedge’s case, reporting requirements do not stop regardless. The sheriff’s office installed a surveillance camera on a pole across the street from Coppedge’s parents´ home and kept them, too, under surveillance, even though they have been neither accused, convicted or suspected of crimes.

The Coppedge case, in sum, illustrates the vagaries that can frame the case of a sexual offender—or, now, predator—long after he’s been released from prison, and how those vagaries, compounded with restrictions on where sex offenders may live and what strict reporting requirements they must live by, can eventually have the opposite effect of the state’s intended surveillance. That surveillance (and the living restrictions, which forbid offenders from living within proximity of schools, churches, parks and other such places) is intended to ensure better control of a individuals considered potentially dangerous whether they’ve served their sentence or not. Instead, the restrictions at times result in the individuals being forced out of their normal family or work settings. Like Coppedge, they end up homeless, where controls or surveillance is more difficult, as is a more productive reintegration into society for those individuals.

Palm Coast, Ormond Beach, Deltona and Daytona Beach, among others locally, all enacted 2,500-foot restrictions in the late 2000s. They did so, as reported in these pages in May, “despite studies that show the laws can make more offenders homeless, or make it more likely they will falsely report or not disclose where they are living. And though the laws are meant to protect children from being victimized by repeat offenders, they do not reduce the likelihood that sex offenders will be convicted again for sexual offenses, according to multiple studies, including one from the U.S. Department of Justice.”

In fact, Coppedge’s only conviction since his release from prison was the result of just such a case of failure to properly register—the conviction imposed on Wednesday by Circuit Judge Matthew Foxman, following the sheriff’s office’s investigation. Coppedge was sentenced to two years’ probation.

The sheriff’s office began that case against Coppedge last November. At the time, Coppege was registering his parents’ address as his own, including on his driver’s license. A cop verified him to have been at the address in January 2015, where Coppedge parked his 1987 Volvo.

It’s not clear why, after his residence at his parents’ address was verified, the sheriff’s office decided to launch a fuller investigation: a subsequent investigative report suggests that detectives thought Coppedge was not living with his parents. The investigation started  on November 23, 2015, when, according to an investigative summary of the case, a deputy  installed a motion-activated infrared-equipped surveillance camera opposite the house at 41 Louisiana Drive. The camera was set to take two pictures every time it was activated. Over the next eight days, it took 5258 images. Thanksgiving, the report noted, was “the only date that [Coppedge’s] 1987 Volvo is seen.” Only two images, the report claims, show Coppedge himself. Coppedge’s parents are routinely captured on camera, which was reinstalled in front of the house in mid-December.

Around the same time, deputies interviewed Coppedge’s parents and learned that Coppedge had been providing the sheriff’s office a phone number that was off by one digit. They also learned that he spent his nights elsewhere, according to his parents. Detectives sought out and got a warrant to search Coppedge’s cell phone records, confirming that Coppedge had routinely provided a number that belonged to someone else. When detectives checked the number Coppedge’s father provided, the address returned to a woman in Bunnell at 302 North Anderson Street, with Coppedge’s email address listed in the subscriber’s information. Detectives subsequently found Coppedge’s car on Chapel Street and started conducting surveillance of it and of Coppedge himself as he rode his bike in Bunnell, finally getting a warrant for his arrest on a charge of violating the registration requirement.

Coppedge’s lawyer argued to the court that the surveillance method the sheriff used was flawed, starting with the distance between the camera and the property under surveillance: the camera was installed 21 feet beyond its effective range, if the property was its target. “Therefore the inability of the camera to accurately capture all of the comings and goings of the persons entering and leaving 41 Louisiana Drive is apparent simply because the camera was placed too far away to do what it was intended to do,” William Bookhammer, the lawyer, argued in his memo to the court.

He also noted at least 20 instances of camera malfunction, documented by the sheriff’s office, with evidence that despite the arrival and departure of vehicles—despite motion—the motion-activated camera had not taken pictures, as intended. So it could not reliably prove that all comings and goings were documented. On the other hand, thousands of photographs—87 percent—were taken without any apparent motion triggering the shutter. “Where there is no doubt that [Coppedge] was at 41 Louisiana Drive,” the memo state, referring to documented evidence of his presence there, “there are no photographs showing him exiting his car, going into the house, exiting the home” at the documented time “or leaving the home.”

Bookhammer raised numerous other issues to underscore the flawed surveillance and the eventual arrest—which took place at the Louisiana Drive house, not in Bunnell, where cops had initially gone to serve the warrant, because Coppedge lived with his parents, not with the women—whom he visited—in Bunnell. Cops, Bookhammer said, never actually verified that Coppedge was at the South Chapel house they said he was sleeping in. They merely assumed. Fpor that and many other reasons his attorney listed, the attorney said it wa sin Coppedge’s best interest to accept an open plea to the charge of failing to register, and take his chances with the court’s decision.

“It is important to note that at no time did [Coppedge] ‘vanish,’ or ‘go off the grid,” or go into hiding,” Bookhammer said—though the result of the investigation and conviction amount to just that, now that Coppedge is homeless. “He was in Flagler County at all times as shown by his cell phone records and the interviews of the witnesses as well as the photographs of his clothing and other belongings at 41 Louisiana Drive.”

The lawyer’s arguments were not in vain: Coppedge had faced up to 6 years in prison on the state’s scoresheet. He got two years’ probation instead, and one charge against him was dropped, but he was nevertheless rebranded a predator along the way, and rendered homeless.

He served two relatively brief prisons sentences for the sex crimes, and one longer prison sentence—of nearly four years—for child abuse and neglect. He last got out of prison on the second sex offense in 2012. The State Attorney’s Office, however, filed to have him designated a sexual predator only in March.

His first sex crime conviction dates back to 1999, when he was 20, for what the sheriff’s notification refers to as “lewd assault/sex battery on a victim less than 16.” The Flagler conviction could not be verified: it does not appear on the court clerk’s docket, at least not under any of the names Coppedge has gone by.

His second conviction was the result of a July 2 incident at Holland Park, when he invited an underage girl and two girls staying with her for the night to sneak out and meet him and a friend whom she knew from school, which they did. The five went to Holland Park, where the girl and Coppedge’s friend then went off in the area of the tennis courts and had sex. Coppedge himself, according to his arrest report, watched them, masturbated, then moved his friend out of the way and penetrated the girl twice. The girl later told authorities that sex with her friend had been consensual. Sex with Coppedge was not—which amounts to rape. He also attempted to force her to perform oral sex but failed.

He was found guilty of “unlawful sexual activity with a minor,” and sentenced to a year and a half in prison, concurrently with another conviction in a separate case for aggravated battery and false imprisonment.

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18 Responses for “Palm Coast Offender Branded a Sexual Predator 5 Years After Prison, With No New Sex Crime”

  1. Lynn Savage says:

    Failing to register as an offender is a crime. Hence the additional sentencing. People who disobey our laws tend to minimize the need for them or the consequences of breaking them. Even taking the “sex” out of the equation–there are consequences for not following the rules. Or at least there should be. As a previous member of the judicial arm of government—every individual when sentenced is also given a list of consequences if the sentence isn’t obeyed. It’s not profiling, it’s not partiality, it’s not unjust. It’s the way the law is supposed to be. Our government doesn’t always follow thru, be when they do follow thru—it’s not the right time to criticize. Sometimes you get “caught”, sometimes you don’t. “IF YOU CAN’T DO THE TIME, DON’T DO THE CRIME”.

  2. What??? says:

    This is where the resources go? This guy is the least of Flagler counties problems. Aren’t their bigger fish to fry in the L’s then him. If they’re worried about the guy that much put a freak’in tracking bracelet on him but to put cameras up and watch his family? Backwards freak’in Flagler county. Every idiot they premature release over and over for beating their wives, and robbing stores and houses should be the ones they watch. Some of these so-called sex cases which could be anything from peeing in public to miss-match ages of a guy and girl fooling around can become a scarlet letter. Now the guy is deemed a predator not because of an actual new sex case but because of not complying? Take note people this is how the system manipulates the law to screw you no matter how much they say you served your time.

  3. A.S.F. says:

    He’s no upstanding citizen. But it won’t help matters if the police resort to tactics that are unconstitutional and won’t stand up in court.

  4. Investigator says:

    I typically refrain from commenting on articles from here but decided to here because this is one is strange, with some strange conclusions about this investigation, and because I have seen you at post opinions that are in conflict with your own conclusion.

    First, your assumption about sex offender/predator residency restrictions being counterproductive is accurate and supported by research. Which is why the Sheriff’s Office does not typically arrest for residency violations. It is best to simply know where these subjects live and compel them to move to areas that comply with the law.

    Sex Offender registration laws exist because sex offenders are statistically at a higher risk of re-offending, most child abductions are sexually motivated crimes, 44% of children abducted are dead within 1 hour, 77% are dead within 3 hours. If you want to read further on how many offenses sex offenders commit before they are detected Google “the Butner Study”. If you want to see the statistics I just posted about child homicides, Google the “Washington State Study on Child Homicides”. Registration laws are designed to help law enforcement in the event of an abduction, so lives can be saved, and potential suspects’ whereabouts are known.

    In Mr Coppedge’s case it was known he did not reside at the residence, but as his attorney successfully appealed to the judge, it is difficult to prove when people will cover for the person. The Sheriff’s Office had some limitations in surveillance equipment that his attorney exploited. This equipment is expensive and we worked with what he had. We have over 110 sex offenders in this county. Very few have been looked at for registration violations. However, the eye fell on Mr Coppedge because it has become common knowledge that he has not resided at that home in years,. Surveillance was initiated because it becomes almost impossible to prove someone does not live somewhere when the people they live with will cover for them. He was NOT unfairly targeted for no reason as this article indicates. The surveillance helped establish probable cause to get access to other information to try to find where Mr Coppedge was in fact living.

    If you reevaluate the entire investigation it shows that his step-father provided audio recorded testimony that Mr Coppedge lived at the home, parked in the driveway every night, and slept there every night. His father then contradicted this testimony in court when he said Mr Coppedge is not allowed to be at the home at night because he is not allowed to be around his own daughter by order from the Department of Children and Families, and actually sleeps there during the day on the couch, and often rides his moped and only enters the home through a back door. The surveillance was used because the contradictory testimony that his step-father provided was anticipated and his testimony needed to be discredited.

    His location was unknown, counter to what his attorney represented and he was finally located living in the housing authority with in 6/10th of a mile of an elementary school and with two children, after he was tracked with other techniques.

    His girlfriend helped establish that he had at least been staying with her in the housing authority, several nights a week, which was unknown to all those families in that area. These sex offender laws were designed to protect and notify the community because of cases like Jessica Lunsford, Jimmy Ryce, Adam Walsh, and many others. The Sheriff’s Office investigated Mr Coppedge in the interest of protecting the community and has an incredible burden of proof to establish a case such as this.

    If you further examine the case, you will also notice that he is now registered as homeless because despite the fact that his attorney argued that he did in fact live at his parents house, he then basically admitted he didn’t after sentencing, when he was advised he had to register properly and his attorney disclosed that he is not actually allowed to live at the home because they (Mr Coppedge’s step-father and mother) will lose custody of Mr Coppedge’s daughter whom he is forbidden from having contact.

    He is now a predator because the investigation caused the FDLE to reevaluate his status. And despite the fact that he is now homeless he is better tracked because he is on ankle monitoring while on probation.

  5. liberal says:

    Poor Mr. Rapist.

    He was just ‘branded’ late as a predator. He got 5 years of freedom as ‘just’ a sex offender. They probably couldn’t find him because he failed to register, or he would have been branded much earlier. With all his alias’s, had to be even tougher to find him.

    Let’s not forget, he RAPED a girl under 16. And apparently never learned his lesson from the previous crime 2 years earlier.
    Being listed as a Predator is a gift, he should be doing 20 to life inside the pen.

  6. Cyd Weeks says:

    So? The state screwed up and didn’t designate him as a predator in a timely fashion. They’ve now corrected their error. Good for them. I’m glad they did. Now everyone knows he’s a two time (minimum) offender, with children. They also know now that he’s been trying to hide, lying to the police about his location and his phone number, which pretty much means to me that he’s not ‘rehabilitated’. Everyone should know what he’s capable of and now we do. Yay!

  7. Cyd Weeks says:

    oh…and… “A predator designation requires that a person be convicted of a first-degree felony sex crime, or two second-degree felony sex crimes (with offenses, convictions or release from court sanctions occurring within 10 years) and which occurred after October 1, 1993. In addition, the court must issue a written order finding for predator status.” So, this: ” Predators are usually associated with violent sexual crimes such as rape.” is incorrect… he’s a repeat offender. Predator is the correct designation. You also have no clue what so ever if he’s repeated since then and just hasn’t been caught. And pray tell, why would his parents lie…say that he doesn’t sleep there if he does? Glad his photo is out there and parents, since his victims are generally minors, are aware.

  8. Pissed Off says:

    Good old Palm Compton. I’m going to petition the Governor for the name change.

  9. Gkimp says:

    Good job F.C.S.O. the guy is a preditor and should be monitored.

  10. A.S.F. says:

    If the are people who are aiding and abetting this guy in breaking the law and possibly endangering others, they should be charged appropriately and be made to pay the consequences of THEIR behavior. The definition of family (girlfriend/friend) should not include the right to enable the criminal behavior of its individual members.

  11. flager me says:

    Surprised he’s in L section- Thought for sure he would be in P or R section which went downhill in the early 2000’s when Fleming was Sheriff

  12. theevoice says:

    you are on the money “liberal”..on the money!!!

  13. Oh WOW says:

    Just stay in your home and mind your own. Who gives a flick about these morons out there. I don’t even give a rats ass about anything anymore. Go to hell for all I care.

  14. A.S.F. says:

    You’ll care when the victim is either you or someone you care about (if you care about anyone.)



    This guy is the least of Flagler County’s problems? Really?

    A convicted sex offender who pushed a guy aside so he could rape a 16-year-old? And then after jail time completely ignores the conditions of his release?

    Will you say that when he rapes again?

  16. What??? says:

    VOICE OF REASON. It’s called proactive not reactive. For all you know he could have already raped again, your just hearing about him years later thanks to this fresh article I’ve been watching him for years before that. Like I said they should have put a bracelet on him way earlier instead of playing these mission impossible spy games with hidden cameras with him. Now five years later everybody’s scared. It’s called creating a new boogie man to push ones agenda.

  17. Vicki Henry says:

    Investigator: The Butner Study has been refuted……there are numerous RECENT studies on recidivism where academics and researchers alike have reported very low recidivism. Also, try reading this RECENTLY RELEASED document..

    The Supreme Court’s Crucial Mistake About Sex Crime Statistics It is very important that you read the abstract below and then the full 12 page essay by Ira Mark and Tara Ellman.

    ABSTRACT This brief essay reveals that the sources relied upon by the Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, a heavily cited constitutional decision on sex offender registries, in fact provide no support at all for the facts about sex offender re-offense rates that the Court treats as central to its constitutional conclusions. This misreading of the social science was abetted in part by the Solicitor General’s misrepresentations in the amicus brief it filed in this case. The false “facts” stated in the opinion have since been relied upon repeatedly by other courts in their own constitutional decisions, thus infecting an entire field of law as well as policy making by legislative bodies. Recent decisions by the Pennsylvania and California supreme courts establish principles that would support major judicial reforms of sex offender registries, if they were applied to the actual facts. This paper appeared in Constitutional Commentary Fall, 2015.

    Vicki Henry, Women Against Registry

  18. HB says:

    This guy is a rapist! He has ruined 2 lives. Why are we supposed to be sympathetic towards him?

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