It wasn’t a coincidence, when he was attempting one of his three runs for office a decade ago, the way Jamie Nejame rode in the Flagler Beach Christmas parade from atop a huge SUV, lording over minions below like a pasha. There’s often been a pattern of arrogance in his comportment, as if he really was above it all. And for a time, he was.
He’d faced allegations of stalking, aggravated stalking, violating an injunction (he tried to get those press reports scrubbed from the record), shooting into his neighbor’s house, and now violating his probation. He tried, on pre-trial release, to convince a judge to let him return to the house from where he’d committed the crime (the judge said no). But every time, he also managed to avoid spending more time in jail than needed for a booking and a bail-out, reducing or getting his charges dropped along the way.
Until today. Nejame, 73, was sentenced this morning to a year in jail for brazenly violating his probation just weeks after he was sentenced on remarkably lenient terms, and after prosecutors and his victims had agreed to lower his charge from a second degree felony, which could have exposed him to years in prison, to two misdemeanors, limiting exposure to a maximum of two years in jail.
“We could have died that night. Those little boys that I love so much could have died, any of them,” one of the victims of the shooting testified today.
That night, Nejame inexplicably fired several bullets at his neighbors’ house (a crime scene investigator determined four bullets struck the house), where two young children were hanging out with their parents and grandparents (it’s the grandparents’ house). Nejame had recently moved into the house at 97 Bressler Lane. There’d been no issues with the neighbors. They didn’t have a clue why he’d do such a thing. But he did. He worked as a security guard at the time. He had at least seven guns at his house.
“God gave us a second chance,” the victim–the grandmother–continued, as she addressed the judge this morning by zoom. “So we felt we would do the same for him, and give him a chance to make those wrongs right, and he took advantage of the judge and of the state and he did whatever he chose to do just like we thought he was going to do. But trying to be as fair as we could we wanted to not be in doubt that he could do what he was supposed to do. But as soon as the sentencing happened, he just went back and did whatever he wanted to do.”
After the shooting last year, Nejame was arrested, charged, booked, and bonded out on pre-trial release. With his attorney, Aaron Delgado, he’d managed three months ago to have the second-degree felony charges of aggravated assault reduced to two misdemeanor counts–improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm in public–with maximum exposure of two years in jail. He didn’t get anywhere near that much.
Against the resigned protests of his elderly neighbors, one of whom is terminally ill, and their daughter (they’d reluctantly agreed to the plea deal), Circuit Judge Terence Perkins sentenced him only two years on probation, no jail time, on the promise that Nejame would stay away from that property. Nejame signed on to the promise.
He didn’t keep it.
He had been originally sentenced to probation on April 1. Before the end of the month, he was making weekly trips back to the house. Another Bressler Lane resident who lives next door to Nejame’s property provided prosecutors a signed affidavit and testified today of seeing Nejame at the property “at least once a week,” starting from the end of April until May 26. He’d see him fixing his mailbox, tending to his yard, edging grass, spending an hour or less there each time.
The mother of the two children who were at the house when Nejame fired his gun testified today, too. “We felt that we gave him a very good deal, initially, with letting him plead to a lesser sentence, due to the situation, even though he shot at my parents’ home that night, with my children outside,” she said. “This time around, we felt that it was disregarded. We allowed him to serve a lesser sentence, even though the crime was pretty severe. But we felt that we’re going to give him a chance to serve out his sentence and not have to deal with him for two years, and hopefully this would be put behind us, but we felt that he disregarded that by being at his home when he wasn’t supposed to be.”
The crux of the agreement, Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark said, was ensuring that Nejame would stay away from the property for two years.
Nejame himself testified. He said he’d been a Marine in 1968, claimed he drank poisoned water at Camp Lejeune (where Marines are trained), that he was doused in Agent Orange in Vietnam, and that he was “shot five times during combat.” (Curiously, that past didn’t come up when he ran for office, though candidates are usually eager to present their credentials as veterans.) He said he worked in law enforcement after the service. He said he returned to the property because before the plea deal, there’d been a 500-foot no contact order, “which I observed for seven months,” he said, “until the new probation went into effect. And that was lifted.”
He then claimed he took the probation order as though he could go to the property, but just not live in the house. “I did go there, I did mow the lawn, I fixed the mailbox that was run down,” Nejame said. “I went there with no malice or intent to violate any probation. I wasn’t trying to hide or disguise myself or anything like that.” He said he was on medication for a heart condition, for diabetes, and that he contracted Covid in jail. He said he’d turned management of the property over to a rental agency, and that the property has been leased out for four years. “I have nothing else to do with that property,” he said. He would not need to return to the property. But he conceded: “I screwed up.”
He had never asked his probation officer for permission to go there.
Clark had little patience for Nejame’s explanations as she argued for a one-year jail sentence. “I find it disingenuous that he’s going to try and sit here and say that he didn’t understand” the probation terms, she said. “He scoffed at that. He did whatever he wanted. He came back multiple times, contrary to this court’s order. It’s very clear that he is not going to abide by your order. And I think that the only punishment that makes any sense in this case is 364 days.”
It’s one day short of a year because misdemeanors do not score state prison time, which kicks in past the year mark. Delgado says Nejame admits to the mistake, but not to knowingly violating his probation.
Perkins said he’d originally been willing to accept the plea because of Nejame’s military service and law enforcement experience. The plea was predicated on his not going to the house, but he did. “I don’t think I have any choice in this regard,” Perkins said, revoking Nejame’s probation, sentencing him to 364 days in jail with credit for the last 34 days that he’s been there since his arrest on the probation violation, followed by one more year on probation. It was still, all, told, a very lenient outcome.
Disclosure: Aaron Delgado is a member of the FlaglerLive Board of Directors. He was not contacted or interviewed, on background or for the record, for this article or in connection with any previous hearings or steps in the case.