Brian Scott Odell is a 37-year-old former resident of Pine Hurst Lane in Palm Coast. He was arrested two years ago this month on several charges of unlawful sex with a minor–a 16-year-old girl and friend of the family he used to pick up at her school bus stop and care for when her grandmother was not able. The two developed a romantic attachment, then a physical relationship.
In March 2019 Odell agreed to plead guilty in a deal that resulted in his conviction on one count of sexual activity with a minor. Four similar charges were dropped. He was sentenced to a two-year prison sentence followed by eight years of sexual-offender probation. He was also designated a sexual offender for life.
With credit for time served and good behavior, Odell was scheduled to be released from Walton prison in Defuniak Springs next week. That may not happen.
Odell hasn’t re-offended. But he faces new charges on the same old case. He is facing them now because law enforcement and prosecutors did not act fast enough to include the additional charges from the additional evidence among the charges on which they and Odell had agreed to deal 18 months ago. Had those new charges been part of the original batch, the deal might have led to a longer prison term, but not to an entirely new case, a potential trial, and potentially a much longer prison term.
Because of those delays, the case as it now presents itself in court is more complicated than a case that stands on its own. While the prosecution is within its legal rights to file new charges at any point, the fact that the “new” evidence for the new charges was available well before the plea deal on the original charges may raise questions and issues of double jeopardy and fairness.
On Friday, Odell was transferred out of the state prison system’s custody and booked again at the Flagler County jail, where he was served with a warrant charging five counts of promoting the sexual performance of a child, each a second-degree felony, each carrying a potential 15 years in prison.
The charges are unquestionably the result of activities tied to the original arrest in 2018. They are based on 18 video files, the shortest lasting six seconds, the longest 14 minutes, almost all of them allegedly depicting Odell and the girl engaged in various sexual acts, with either of them holding the phone to video the action and talking to each other.
The detective investigating the case obtained a search warrant for the phone in October 2018, around the same time that the original charges were filed and six months before Odell’s plea agreement. The phone was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a forensic analysis. FDLE on Feb. 6, 2019, informed the detective that it had completed the analysis. The detective reviewed the lab report of the forensic analysis the next day–five weeks before Odell pleaded on the original charges. Normally, when new evidence of the sort emerges, law enforcement and prosecutors are supposed to be on the same page, with investigators informing prosecutors of the new evidence.
But it wasn’t until March 26, 2019, a week after Odell had pleaded and four days after he was sentenced, that the detective fully reviewed the contents of the 18 DVDs that FDLE had compiled out of Odell’s phone, even though the DVDs had been sitting in evidence for weeks, since being provided by FDLE. The 18 video clips are not dated, but their substance is summarized in the detective’s new arrest affidavit. In the interim, in a step that accounts for some of the delay, the sheriff’s office had tried to get federal prosecutors’ interest in the case, and at first got the sense that the FBI would, in fact, take it, according to officials familiar with the case. But in the end, the FBI passed. So the new charges were drafted locally.
On March 28, while Odell was still at the Flagler County jail, the detective and a supervisor contacted Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark, who prosecutes sex crimes in Flagler, who according to the arrest affidavit “indicated law enforcement would be able to make contact with Brian in reference to the child pornography,” as his previous case was closed.
The detectives met with O’Dell at the county jail on April 2, 2019, when they read him his Miranda rights and he agreed to speak with them. He conceded to making the recordings. It’s not clear if he was aware the case was now being investigated separately from the original one, or if he was under the impression that loose ends were being tied. Six days later, Odell was shipped off to the state prison system.
The new arrest affidavit was not signed and dated until last January 20. It was not filed in the court docket until April 3 this year, and Clark did not file the State Attorney’s information–the official charging document against Odell–until Sept. 3. None of those delays are explained, though there seems to have been no attempt to time the actual serving of the charges with Odell’s impending release from prison. Though the charging affidavit listed 18 counts, the charging information included only five of the original charges. Odell was not served the warrant on the five charges until Friday, at the jail.
When a defendant faces charges involving the same victim, and from behavior or acts that took place concurrently with the acts that resulted with the original charges, that defendant, the prosecution and the court would normally contend with all charges concurrently. What plea deal would be offered and what plea the defendant might agree to would be informed by the totality of the charges, typically resulting in some charges being retained and some dropped. Had Odell been afforded that approach, his sentence would have then likely reflected the same totality.
Instead, Odell now faces what amounts to an entirely new case paradoxically drawn from the very same case–“new” evidence drawn from the very same incidents for which he was sentenced and for which he served time, and instead of being released to serve his probation next week, he’s being held without bond at the Flagler County jail, awaiting trial. He had his first appearance on the new charges before County Judge Melissa Distler on Saturday. He is scheduled for a court appearance before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins at the Flagler courthouse Tuesday afternoon. Dell has retained DeLand attorney William Alexander for his defense.