Bo Jeremiah Sirrine, 23, and Tonda Royal, 55, once shared a cell at the Flagler County jail. They also shared a predilection for underage girls. But how they were punished reveals a vast disparity in the way two men facing similar charges can see their fates diverge radically.
Sirrine is a free man. Royal is serving 12 years in state prison.
A few weeks ago, Sirrine walked out of the Flagler County jail after spending more than two years there on charges of raping a 13-year-old Palm Coast girl. He’d initially faced two counts of lewd or lascivious battery of a girl younger than 16, second degree felonies that exposed him to up to 30 years in prison. According to his arrest report, he and the girl met on social media, talked on the phone, and she invited him to her home, where he first went one night after midnight, entering the girl’s bedroom through a window. They talked, kissed, and had sex. He did the same the next night, and the night after that. His admissions to authorities left no room for doubt: “The defendant admitted to having sexual intercourse with the victim, vaginal, anal, as well as orally.”
He was found out only because the girl’s mother discovered her daughter in a bra and underwear and Sirrine in her room in a pair of boxer shorts, trying to hide from the mother on the other side of the bed. The victim would subsequently write a detective to also detail the specifics of the sexual encounters. Detectives further confirmed the sexual nature of the encounters with DNA collected from the girl’s bed, connecting Sirrine to the DNA with only a one in 700 billion chance that it wasn’t him. (The known population of the universe is 7.7 billion human beings.)
It was not the sort of case that a defendant could realistically defend against, even if the sex is consensual. The difference in age between perpetrator and victim being what it is, it is unlawful sex regardless. The consensual nature of the encounter makes it statutory rape.
But Sirrine hired a private attorney, Michael Lambert, one of the most effective in the circuit. It paid off. It also helped that the victim appeared to have had misgivings about getting Sirrine in trouble. That’s irrelevant under Florida law, as the prosecution made clear in a motion to quash any mention of that in court. The victim’s “feelings on whether the defendant should be charged criminally in this case or whether she felt guilty about the defendant getting into trouble is not relevant and the defense should not be permitted to question her about such issues,” Assistant State Attorney Milissa Clark argued in a motion.
It didn’t get that far. The girl’s feelings appear to have played a role after all: prosecutors do take family and victim preferences into account when deciding how to prosecute a suspect. In cases involving sex with minors, the trauma entailed by a minor having to testify is always a factor in such decisions, crucial as the testimony is, and if the victim refuses to testify, or appears to be an uncooperative witness, the prosecution has little choice but to seek other approaches.
“If I can resolve a sex case with a child victim, where I don’t have to put them through trial,” Clark, who prosecuted the cases of both men, said at Royal’s sentencing, “that’s certainly my priority.”
In Sirrine’s case, the prosecution agreed to a plea that reduced the charges to felony child abuse. No prison time. No lifetime designation as a sexual predator or offender. Not even an adjudication of guilty: the judge withheld adjudication, which means Sirrine is not considered a felon.
On Monday, Sirrine’s probation orders were filed at court: five years’ probation. Compared to sex-offender probation, it’s quite permissive. The probation terms have no restrictions on his hours, no curfew, no ban on the use of the Internet or social media, except he can’t be a member of any dating app. He had met the 13-year-old victim through one such app, “Plenty of Fish.” Some restrictions do reflect the fact that his arrest report reflected he’d repeatedly raped a child, however: he is to have no unsupervised contact with minors, including minor family members, but that’s pending a psycho-sexual evaluation. If that required evaluation finds he’s no threat to minor children, the restriction will be lifted. For five years he’s not to work in any place where children gather, including schools, day care centers and the like. Otherwise, the former Navy recruit may go about his life a free man.
Tonda Royal was accused of having sex with a 16-year-old girl once. The charge was unlawful sexual activity with a minor, also a second-degree felony. He had befriended the girl when living in a camper in the Mondex. One day he invited her to his trailer, supposedly to show her the rooster or chicken he’d killed after the animal had been attacking the girl. He invited her in. They had sex. There was DNA evidence.
Royal, indigent, got a public defender. At trial, Assistant Public Defender Reginal Nunnally invoked racial motives in the prosecution–or, as the case may have been from Royal’s perspective, persecution–of Royal. His victim was white, and was friends with a group of people who had it in for Royal, who is Black, in the Mondex. That part may have been quite believable, especially in west Flagler. What came next defied all credibility, as does the legal advice that allowed Royal to peddle the story he did.
Royal himself on the stand claimed he’d never had sex with the 16-year-old girl. No, he’d had sex with a different girl, whom he named but whom the defense never produced at trial as a witness. That girl stole his sperm-filled condom and, in a conspiracy with the 16 year old, used it to insert the sperm in the girl and pin the rape of the 16-year-old on Royal.
Yet Royal also admitted to telling the 16-year-old girl’s mother that he’d had sex with her (“I fucked up, but it’s not what you think,” he told the girl’s mother. He wanted to tell her that it was consensual).
The prosecution never claimed that the sex was not consensual. Had it done so, the charge would have been more severe, exposing Royal potentially to life in prison. The jury, unsurprisingly, returned a guilty verdict.
Among their lengthy set of instructions, judges invariably tell juries that they are not to hold it against a defendant if the defendant chooses not to testify. They never tell juries that it’s the defendant’s right to take a case to trial. That’s implicit. They also never tell them about plea deals made or not made. But judges know all that. And implicit in a guilty verdict is the disqualification from any sort of deal or the leniency that may have been the result of a deal. Judges are constrained by sentencing guidelines. But those remain guidelines, not commands, and judges are allowed to be more lenient than the guidelines–do go with a “downward departure” from the guidelines, in court lingo.
Before sentencing, Royal and Nunnally further argued technical issues of the case, raising questions about the definition of “sexual union,” the victim’s “inconsistencies” and her credibility, in Nunnally’s words. They sought to have a new trial. They were not successful. “I can’t say that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to support the charge,” Circuit Judge Terence Perkins said, before moving on to the sentencing.
In contrast with the Sirrine case, the victim in Royal’s case had submitted a “victim impact statement”–another element outside the trial’s parameters that plays heavily at sentencing, almost always against the defendant. Royal took the stand in his own defense at sentencing and quoted Sir Matthew Hale, chief justice during Charles II’s reign.
“It is true that rape is the most detestable crime, and therefore ought to severely and impartially be punished by death,” Royal told the judge, apparently quoting from Hale. “And I agree with him. Okay. ‘But it must be remembered that it is an accusation easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, who are never so innocent.'”
The judge reminded him that he’d been found guilty of sex with a minor, not “rape,” and would sentence him accordingly. “You can stand up there and read the phone book,” Perkins told him. “You and I both know that doesn’t help you.” But he still allowed him to go on at length.
Royal is not exactly the poster child of a wronged man: he had previously served 13 and a half years on federal charges (he’d been convicted of armed robbery then “became a drug dealer,” in his own words, then printed counterfeit bills). He is a convicted felon many times over and has a violent past, and his violence did not abate when he was at the county jail: he was charged with battery against Sirrine after Sirrine threw his clothes and belongings out of the cell they shared. (The charge was dropped.)
His past played no role at trial: the prosecution was not allowed to bring it up, but standards are different at sentencing. The prosecution had before trial offered Royal a plea deal: 6 years, based on how his past history scored him on a standard penalty scoresheet. (The defense and prosecution disagreed on the scoresheet’s tally, but the judge agreed that the low end of the tally was, in fact, six years.)
At sentencing, Clark withdrew that number and pressed for the full 15 years. Sparing the child victim the need to testify “was the only reason why I considered a downward departure,” and made the offer of a leaner sentence, she said. It was “not for the benefit of Mr. Royal, but for the benefit of the victim not being — having to be on the stand, having to go through deposition, having to testify and go through cross-examination. As the court is aware, it’s a difficult process for anybody, much less a child. So that’s why I made the offer that I did.”
Implicit in that statement is the retaliatory nature of the harsher sentence she was now seeking. Though six years would have been fine before trial, she now was asking for more than double that, because Royal’s decision had resulted in the girl having to testify. That, in effect, means that Royal was being harshly penalized for having sought to defend himself at trial, assuming the judge went along.
Nunnally in court argued for a “downward departure,” and–in a remarkable admission of steps missed along the way–said had all guideline numbers been known before trial, Royal would have taken the six-year deal.
“He did not do anything to violate” his federal probation, Nunnally told the judge, “except get arrested because he was accused of having sex with somebody, not accused of robbery, not accused of doing drugs, not accused of selling drugs, not accused of anything of a violent nature.” She said he “helped people. He helped his mother. He helped everybody. And that was his way of giving back to the community to show that he is changed.”
She asked the court for a sentence of 72 months: six years, which would have meant five years, because he’d already served exactly a year at the county jail and gets credit for that. And with early release after serving 85 percent of his sentence, he’d have been eligible to leave prison after a little over four years.
Perkins had none of it. He sentenced Royal to 12 years, followed by three years’ sex-offender probation. “I accepted the bottom of the guidelines, 71.75 months,” Perkins said. “And while I agree that that would be a lawful sentence in this case, for the reasons that are particular to the facts of this case, I find that it also would be an inappropriate sentence here.”
Unquestionably, Royal’s decision to seek a trial cost him. On April 20, the Fifth District Court of Appeal upheld Royal’s conviction.
Two weeks ago Royal, serving time at a state prison in Milton, heard about Sirrine’s release. “I am told that his charge, I would argue was more severe than mine, was reduced to child abuse,” he wrote. “Why? How did Bo Sirrine acquire this escape from justice in Flagler County? WHO allowed it?”
maria davis says
Justice system to easy on certain people. It’s not black and white it’s $ vs 0. Victims should need to testify closed circuit tv. Children should not testify. Hit them both with the book! If they get away with it they will do it again.
The white guy had no money, he got white privilege and was in the Navy
R. S. says
Bo Sirrine may have a good shot at being named justice of the supreme court, no? What a biased system this is.
Disgusted in Flagler County says
Tonda Royal, is a real dirtbag I’ve heard a lot about him but how old is the other guy Sirrine? I think age may have played a part in Sirrines sentence. Either way one’s black and one’s white with very different sentences here. I do think there is a difference between sex between two teenagers and a 55 year old man and a teenager. The 13 year old is innocent here but everyone else definitely had some explaining to do .
I heard Tonda Royal was liked by many in the Mondex except for by those with race issues. Have you ever met him. From Facebook photos its really hard to believe he was ”a real dirtbag” besides having met him myself.
I know Tonda since he moved to the Mondex. Obviously you don’t. I see other people on here who say they know him too. And I know a lot about this case. First, Tonda is a good man who may or may not have made a mistake. If he had sex with her. But that’s not what she reported. She said he raped her by force. What happened to the alleged force? Magic. Also known as racist corruption. She said he had raped her 3 days ago, but was hanging out at his house and asked for a ride to the park the day before she alleged ”rape”. If they had sex, why did she claim he raped her? Tonda was not arrested until 5 months later. Her DNA was not found in his home. Nor on any of her clothing. The girl claimed rape until she was directed to not say the word rape all the way until she got on the witness stand. Because the corrupt prosecution knows that ”rape” is not statutory rape and had she said ”he raped me” Tonda would have walked. So they changed the testimony evidence in order to constitute the charged offense, which the State never had to begin with. DNA doesn’t prove a crime. How it got there does. Tonda is probably an innocent man in prison. Buried with time. He could probably use your help for justice. Not your hearsay negative attacks.
Trailer Bob says
I met Tonda when I moved to Bunnell and he wa a pretty nice dude…from my personal experience. You never know what someone has done in the past…you just know what they say to you, how they act, and what you see in them.
I know what he did, but do not believe he got a fair trial. Of course he was broke, so there is that.
I am not condoning what he did, just saying that the man I spent time with at the local watering holes, in my mind, was a pretty nice guy, pleasant to be with, and showed no mental deficiencies that would indicate that he would force a female to have sex without consent. Perhaps there were drugs involved that would play a role in this interaction….I don’t know. But from what I saw in him, in his demeanor, in his actions, I did not see him as a monster or a man out of control. Wrong to do it…for sure. A monster…highly doubtful. Back in the 60’s when I was young, this would have been taken care of by the father of the girl. I don’t recall reading how this incident got to the police…that would have been an interesting and important part of the story.
Ray W. says
Procedural due process is defined as notice and a right to be heard.
The notice part is easily met by reading the particulars alleged in an Indictment or Information.
The right to be heard can be more difficult to accomplish, but it can be met by using any one of three broad categories of defense: 1. An attorney can build a defense through the state’s witness testimony and evidence, thereby arguing a defendant’s story without presenting any evidence at all during the defense case-in-chief. This is what happened in the Pehota case, mentioned by Mr. Tristam in a recent article. In that trial, the State elected to argue to the jury that Mrs. Pehota’s statements to police and her letters to family were trustworthy, even though they conflicted with the physical evidence and were inherently inconsistent. Most importantly, the detective kept asking Mrs. Pehota about fresh large bruises on her forearms. She repeatedly told him she had no idea how they got there, but agreed they could not have come from the use of handcuffs. Since she spoke of her husband violently manhandling her in the past, this could have been the cause of the large fresh bruises, only she couldn’t remember. This lack of remembrance allowed me to argue that Mrs. Pehota presented as severely confused throughout her interrogation, severely confused throughout her pre-trial incarceration, and severely confused in the content of her letters, a defense the prosecutor never even saw coming because she focused only on the parts of Mrs. Pehota’s story that suited her theory of prosecution. I cannot say that Mr. Tristam was right in focusing on Mrs. Pehota’s lack of emotion throughout her interrogation, but I certainly will not say he is wrong in his conclusion that her lack of emotion when talking to a detective about her husband’s death sank her own case. Admitting the crime at every opportunity did not help her, but her defense was built through evidence presented during the state’s case. Mrs. Pehota’s voice was heard through the state’s evidence. 2. A defendant may elect to avoid the witness stand and choose to present other evidence that establishes his or her voice in the courtroom. 3. A defendant may directly present his voice to a jury by a taking the stand to testify. Since it is the defendant’s voice that is important, defense attorneys must be chameleons; their own thoughts about the defendant’s story are, by definition, irrelevant. Obviously, any defense attorney will counsel a client about the quality of the story the client wishes to present and then urge options 1 and 2 for the client’s consideration, but the client’s choice must prevail.
Whenever I first met with a client, I explained my four rules to the practice of law. The short form of the four rules (the long form takes 45 minutes to an hour to explain to a new client) are as follows: 1. I am only as smart about your case as you let me be, so don’t hold back on your story. As part of this first rule, I explain what is referred to as the giggle test. If jurors laugh at one of your defenses, there is the real possibility that they will laugh at the rest of them, so be careful in choosing your defenses 2. I am not smart enough to predict your future. 3. I am not smart enough to live your life for you, which means I give advice and you make the decisions. 4. If I am to honor my third rule, I have to allow you to reject my advice, even if I know you are making a bad choice. I will tell you I think it is a bad choice, but it is your voice that must be heard in the courtroom, no matter how bad your voice sounds.
Every defense attorney, in time, will encounter a client who engages in what is commonly referred to as legal suicide. While I have handled far more than three capital sexual battery defenses in my career, I have had to struggle with three individuals who were offered probation on lesser charges, including one offered two misdemeanor pleas, yet each wanted to risk a life sentence on a trial. Eventually, reason prevailed. I do know of an attorney who had a similar probation deal worked out, but the client insisted on trial, fired him, hired another lawyer, went to trial, and then received a 30 year prison term, i.e., legal suicide. No one knows what a jury is going to do and I never had the right to be reckless with my client’s life; I had to be cautious in my advice. My father’s generation of lawyers had a much more accurate phrase to describe clients who would not listen to advice: “Sometimes, the only thing you can do for a client is stand back and watch as he drowns in his own spit.” Of course, this phrase applies to many of the so-called conservative commenters on this site. Some so-called conservative commenters actually think they are winning points by use of hyperbole and deception, but they are only spitting mad, nothing more.
In Royal’s case, procedural due process was satisfied when he testified that he used a condom during a sexual encounter with a different woman who later shared its contents with the underage girl who, under peer pressure, inserted the contents into her vagina to frame him with a severe crime. That was his defense and Ms. Nunnelly was professionally bound to present it to a jury and argue it’s effect to that jury. No one can say why any jury convicts, as jury deliberations are secret, but one legitimate conclusion is that the jury rejected Royal’s testimony.
As an aside, don’t be too harsh about Ms. Nunnelly’s comment about scoresheets, as it is unethical for defense attorneys to prepare scoresheets. Assume for purposes of argument that the state does not know of all of a client’s prior convictions from the FDLE record normally used to fill in the scoresheet. A client, in a privileged conversation, may tell a defense attorney about one or more convictions missing from the FDLE record. Since a defense attorney is an officer of the court, he or she cannot fill in a scoresheet because he or she would have to add what the client had admitted to the scoresheet, yielding a higher score and violating a privileged conversation. I know this is an old tale, but when I was a division chief in the State Attorneys Office in the mid-90’s, I received a quarterly FDLE newsletters. In one of the releases, FDLE wrote of engaging in a thorough effort to improve the accuracy of their criminal history printouts. Prior to the effort, FDLE found that approximately 50% of the criminal histories sent to prosecutors contained errors. Afterwards, FDLE wrote that it had improved its accuracy to over 70%, which meant that just under 30% of my scoresheets were wrong in some way, yet I had to rely on what I received from FDLE to fill out scoresheets. Oh, boy! On a positive note, at that time, DOC assigned a probation officer to each felony docket and I had a really good one, Ms. Quillen, working at my side.
@Ray W. (and Pierre Tristam)
Thank you — and sincerely,
You need to talk to Tonda. Im sure he will leave you with a new and possibly shocking perspective. Not Flagler Love’s, or the prosecution’s, or his overworked attorney who clearly was not prepared or qualified to try his case. But from him. I have talked to him on Jpay. Its a way for the public to communicate with the public. What happened to the alleged force he used to accomplish the sexual intercourse?/And why, if he raped her, would the State REALLY offer him a five year plea? Because he would have beat ”rape”. That’s why.
It doesn’t matter whether George Zimmerman or O.J. Simpson killed those people in cold blood or not. What mattered is if the law was applied fairly for the defendants. In those cases it was. Henceforth the results we are all aware of. That was not the case for Tonda Royal. He was railroaded by a lead detective who obtained his DNA by falsely asserting the girl’s DNA was found on his bedsheets, a judge who issued the warrant disregarding the affidavit for the warrant did not contain proof of her DNA being there, a prosecutor who charged Royal with a totally significantly dissimilar offense that the State did not possess the evidence for to constitute it, and an incompetent attorney who conceded to the evidence and fought to remain his counsellor when he tried to fire her because she told him she didn’t believe him. Not to leave out the Judges decision to force his attorney to remain despite every indication being presented that she should have been substituted. The testimony evidence needed to constitute the charged offense was disclosed by the girl for the first time and by surprise to the defense from the witness stand. At trial. That’s not how law is suppose to work. No objection was made by Nunnally. Why? Tonda raped me, is not what is defined for Unlawful Sexual Activity With Certain Minors 16 or 17 under
F.S. 795.05 in the Florida Criminal Defense Trial Manual 19.8 I have a copy of the entire case and communicate with Tonda enough. I know that he did not get a fair trial. 794..05 is not Tonda raped me. It’s We had sex. Something she never said. The jury was tricked. I believe the girl had sex with Royal for money and then 3 days later cried rape on him for only God knows why? Her story of what happened makes no sense. Keep that in mind when you all talk about Tonda’s story. His makes more sense than hers but no one is reporting that accurately.
That’s one of the major challenges in America, selective prosecution. Typically, it depends who you are and how much money you have. It’s sad, but money and politicians often walk feee. Most big money are never charges, especially if your a politician. Even the Supreme Court are noting but politicians in black robes. That’s why they talk about packing the court. Many big bucks shop for judges. The law should be held true for everyone, but not the case in corrupt America.
To all Black Men,never trust a white woman,U will not defend my statement, just read the race history in this country.
Let me see.
I wonder what the difference is?
Trailer Bob says
Yup…Tonda got screwed. THAT is a lot of time for the crime. And from what I heard…it wasn’t actually rape, and was consensual. Now that doesn’t make it right, but that is a long time for someone his age to be locked up. I would imagine even 3 years behind bars would get the lesson across pretty well. Just saying…
James M. Mejuto says
This is what happens when you don’t have standards. There are no guidelines.
I firmly believe the rape of teenagers and adults deserves the DEATH PENALTY executed within several weeks
James M. Mejuto
White people get away with murder. Black people can’t have air fresheners. The police bought Dylan roof hamburgers on the way to jail after shooting and killing a church full of people. George Floyd had a fake twenty and was murdered.
You’re cherrypicking….just saying.
Mary Jane says
Finally the injustices being written about! SO MANY TIMES THIS HAPPENS. There was a case in the past few years where a young man (with wealthy parents) ran a drug ring out of his house and ended up with 15 years probation while another man acquired similar, but less, charges and he ended up in prison for 15 years. You can get more time in prison for drugs than you do for rape. SAD SAD SAD! Our justice system is a joke!
Tonda should have been smart enough to stay away from the minor. Now he has to pay the price. That’s what you get for thinking with the “little head”.
Let’s see, Perkins? Oh yeah, he’s the judge who sentenced a man to probation for raping, repeatedly, a 13 yr old autistic girl. The man was facing a 50 yr prison term but Perkins decided probation was better.
I don’t feel overly sorry for either one of these characters. And from what I can read above, the younger man did spend two years in jail so he didn’t exactly get off scot-free. I do, feel, however, that the older man got a disproportionally longer sentence although I don’t know his past record or whether there were similar charges in the past or other factors that influenced the sentencing–if a sex crime is committed, past sexual offenses SHOULD influence sentencing–not skin color.
Not all Public Defenders are “bad lawyers.” And not all expensive lawyers are worth what they are paid. We should remember that.
Let’s not forget who the real victims are here–We should remember that most of all.
Ray W. says
What a great scene. Thank you, Pogo, for the clip and thank you, Mr. Tristam, for your site.
I am reminded of the fact that at common law, there were four professions: Doctor, lawyer, priest and architect. Their roles in society were considered so important that they were required to work for free if they accepted a patient, client, parishioner or builder who later ran out of money. If a doctor abandoned a patient, the patient might die. If a lawyer abandoned a client, the client might lose his liberty or life. If a priest abandoned a church member, one’s soul was at risk. If an architect abandoned a site, the building might fall, causing injury or death. Many a lawyer has faced this prospect and submitted to a court’s order to stay on a case. My father once spent 8 1/2 weeks in trial resulting in a hung jury on a death penalty case after the client’s family reneged on their promise to borrow against their homes to pay him. Appointed by the court as a special public defender for the second trial, he spent another 4 1/2 weeks in trial for the then-statutory maximum of $3500. The client was acquitted after a quarter of a year in trial. It is no accident that I chastise certain commenters for their lack of knowledge about the court system, as some people who use FlaglerLive without thanking Mr. Tristam for the opportunity to publish their inane opinions are simply clueless.
When I began practicing law, court watchers were plentiful, though not as many as depicted in the scene from To Kill A Mockingbird. Most were polite and respectful, though occasionally one would announce to anyone who would listen before or after a court session that he (usually) was there to pressure the judge into doing what the court watcher thought was the right thing. After a decade or so, I began to witness a shift to a more organized form of attempted coercion, complete with teams of court watchers rotating in and out of the courtroom and a less respectful display of demeanor. But, for me, the big change occurred during my four year absence from the State Attorney’s Office from 1989 to 19993. I had attended the annual statewide SAO conference before, but when I returned to my first statewide conference as a division chief, I was astounded at the open disrespect and hostility directed towards certain judges and well-known defense attorneys. One presenter, a recent addition to a county court seat, began his presentation by voicing the phrase, “Brother prosecutors!”, even though he had to know his presentation was being recorded. So much for a fair and impartial jurist in his courtroom. Use of terms such as scumbag, dirtbag, slime, etc., brought broad applause from the audience. Mention of certain court opinions brought groans and boos from the crowded room. The law, it seemed, was no longer a profession to many prosecutors. It was as if I had entered an alternate universe, one that really brought home the meaning of a well-known and particularly virulent form of circular reasoning that infects so many though, thankfully, not all prosecutors to this day, to-wit: Good guys do not make mistakes. Prosecutors are good guys. I am a prosecutor. Therefore, I do not make mistakes. In the more collegial early days of my prosecutorial career, the loser always bought drinks after a trial. I flipped that and stated before each trial that the winner bought lunch the next available day. Since I won the vast majority of my trials (118 before I stopped counting), I spent a fair amount of money buying lunches. My sister recently scanned my father’s scrapbook into a digital format. One 1968 News-Journal editorial thanked my father for his service after he resigned his position as the elected State Attorney; it mentioned researching the previous 12 months of trial dockets and finding records of 400 felony trials by my father and his assistants, which I know was three at that time. My father talked of after-hours visits to lawyer hangouts in each of the four counties in the circuit to find out how his assistants were interacting with the defense attorneys. Something about sharing drinks after hours gave my father a clear idea of how his assistants were conducting business. It was quite ordinary for attorneys to meet for a meal and discuss cases over pizza or cheeseburgers. Not so ordinary any more.
As a division chief, my door was always open and troopers, detectives and patrolmen would commonly drop by. I distributed my home number to each agency in my area and received a number of calls for advice well past midnight. FHP had a felony team that would meet for dinner before working I-95 for the night. They would drive by my office before meeting to see if my car was in the lot. If it was, one or several would come in to talk about cases. They could set up anywhere on I-95, but they said they wanted me to handle their drug trafficking arrests, so they set up in my area. Over 100 drug trafficking arrests (some 50 odd cases, some with multiple defendants) in one year kept me busy, though I was glad that my father and his associate collected a significant handful of those cases, conflicting me off of them. One defense attorney saw my car in the parking lot late on a Friday afternoon. He began calling at about 6:00 p.m. on Fridays. If I was in, I would pick up the line and discuss his cases. No caller ID in those days and I always picked up the phone after my staff left for the day. Try getting in touch with a prosecutor now, unless you are in the Public Defender’s homicide unit, which I was a part of. I must point out that the northern unit homicide prosecutors, Mark Johnson and Jenny Dunton, and their staff, were always available to talk whenever I called, unless they were preparing for trial. They went so far as to tell me in advance the days they planned to be meeting with witnesses, so as to not waste my time. I always appreciated that and thank them now for their respectful professionalism.
We miss you in court, Ray.
Ray W. says
Thank you for the compliment.
I miss the action of the courtroom, but not that much.
Flagler County always triggers fond memories. Irwin Connally, Steve Nelson, Judge Hammond. Everyone involved in the court system benefitted from their professionalism. I have taken something good from every judge I ever met, and the 7th Circuit has had and still has many great judges. Flagler County had the unique almost 20-year conjunction of a great public defender, a great prosecutor and a great judge. I am convinced that the demeanor each brought to the courtroom impacted everyone around them. Bailiffs were friendly, clerks were happy and helpful, probation officers were respectful; it was as if the trio lifted the spirits of everyone who came into the courtroom. How thankful I am to have met such people who just made others around them better.
Judge Hammond rejoiced in telling the backstory around a framed Boston-area newspaper article he kept on his chambers wall. A reporter ranked the 10-worst trades in New England professional sports history. Many newcomers to Flagler County do not know that Judge Hammond, an All-American quarterback, led the Seminoles to the first win in school history over the hated Gators. He played professional football for a number of years. Nearing the end of his career, he played for the Dolphins. The Boston Patriots needed a quarterback and in 1969 they traded their prized rookie, Nick Buoniconti, to Miami for Judge Hammond and other players. Judge Hammond played three games for Boston and retired. The reporter classified that trade as historically the worst of all trades regardless of sport, beating out Babe Ruth going to the Yankees.
Tonda was railroaded by a corrupt arrest, Tonda raped me is not F.S. 794.05 because it doesn’t constitute the charged offense. At trial, for the first time and by surprise, the prosecution asked ”What does the word rape mean to you?” Then girl followed the script written for her and replied ” Having sex unwillingly” to constitute the charged offense with the ”having sex” value of the oxymoronic phrase. And leaving the inescapable ”unwillingly” portion of the phrase in order to maintain her credibility for ”raped”. After a missed objection by an incompetent or complicit attorney, the prosecutor misled the jury that ”raped” doesn’t matter to the statute. But it does. Because F.S. 794.011(5) could have been charged (read 794.005) but wasn’t in order to convict Tonda in an election year where the person who Tonda alleged set this whole case up, is the son of the former head of elections in Flagler county. Hmmm.
woof wooofff says
tonda wasa good guy helped anyone at anytime… yes they agreed to have sex but she.lied about her age she used drugs and wanted ciggs and beer for her amd her.friends if.anything the mother shouldn’t of been hanging with him.also I believe it was a set up ppl.certain people did not like Tonda at the.time free tonda or a.less sentence freed the black man shame on the.mother and father
I have communicated with Tonda and still do on this case. He is a really nice guy and those who know him, knows something isnt right about the ”rape” allegation. I had sex with him and I’m nearly 60. That’s not his style. I don’t know what really happened, but I know a rape didn’t. She never said ”we had sex”. That’s what he’s convicted of. We had sex. So what happened to ”he raped me?” Answer that question and you will find the corruption and realize Tonda was wrongfully convicted. I’m white, and I know the history of white females accusing black men of rape. Then after all the damage is done, the truth and motive comes out. Why did she say raped? Why didn’t they charge rape? Free Tonda.
Not surprised. White man get caught, slap on the wrist, in so many words the law tell the white to do it again but do not get caught. Black man no chances u will go to prison. Black men please keep your pants zipped. White can and will do anything and get away with the crime. Look at history, track of tears, blacks and Indians marched to death, no charges against the white man. Black People lynched simply because they wanted a better white man not charged. Why did God make the white man,only He know,I never will.
The commenter Rizzie is making inaccurate statements and misunderstands the applicable law in comment sections to various Tonda Royal articles. The state did drop the forcible rape charge because there was no forcible rape. It’s the state’s job to evaluate the accuracy of charges. Victims will often claim one type of crime when a different type of crime applies (i.e. battery as opposed to aggravated battery, statutory rape as opposed to forcible rape, etc. Victims don’t know the law. The state an d the defense do.) But there was sex, incontrovertibly. Sex with a minor is unlawful. Incontrovertibly That’s what he Royal was charged with, that’s what he was convicted of. Whether he was “set up” or not is irrelevant. An adult his age finally makes the decision–to hang out with a teen, to have sex with a teen. It’s entirely his responsibility, no matter what the teen did. Victim blaming, regardless of the teen’s motive, is irrelevant and obscene.
The commenter also falsely claims there was no DNA on this or that item. Royal’s DNA was found in the girl. The commenter claims the girl’s story makes no sense. Nothing makes less sense than Royal’s ridiculous theory that, while he admits to having sex with an underage girl (thus admitting to the crime charged), it was a different girl who got the first girl’s condom, with Royal’s sperm in it, and injected herself with it. The commenter concedes that Royal had sex with the girl, but only that she cried forcible rape. The state dropped that charge because it was non-applicable, making all arguments about forcible rape irrelevant, and a smokescreen for the actual validity of the remaining charge. Without diminishing the racial elements of the context–it was in the Mondex, after all, and some of the people involved on the periphery of the case are bigots–the commenter is clinging to that smokescreen, misrepresenting the facts and the case. We have given the commenter wide latitude to make her case. She has misrepresented facts and unfairly attacked the attorneys involved. That ends now.