No Dignity: Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, District One and the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court

Tallahassee, FL —When DeShon Thomas’ mother returned home from his long awaited trial, there was an overnight U.S. Express Mail envelope that had been returned to her—it was one that she’d previously mailed to her son’s attorney, Regional Counsel Daren Shippy. The unopened mail had gone Unclaimed twice at the Tallahassee Post Office where the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office receives their mail. The Unclaimed Express envelope was a reminder of how every attorney placed to defend DeShon of the bogus charges against him—have been literally against properly presenting information and dodging information in a way that could clearly and completely exonerate him. Desperately doing any and everything to not hear or care about what his mother has to say—simply because they know that what she has to say makes the most sense.

In March 2013 when Daren Shippy was first assigned to represent DeShon (well, actually 7 months ago considering he didn’t want the case—so officially April 2013), anyway, DeShon’s mother called Mr. Shippy to share information and to offer to pay for a private investigator to assist on the case. Also, DeShon’s mother, who previously worked in telecommunications, had contacts at a number of cell phone companies, including AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. When she received the probable cause back in February 2011 in regards of the murders—it basically stated that AT&T had provided the Leon County Sheriff’s Office with DeShon’s cell phone records, so she reached out to AT&T and obtained information about DeShon’s cell phone records. DeShon’s mother had shared this same information with Mr. Cummings—after the horrific outcome with Mr. Cummings—there was no way for DeShon’s mother to believe that Mr. Cummings would honestly handover/ relay important information over to the attorneys that replaced him. Unfortunately, Mr. Shippy never returned any of DeShon’s mother’s phone calls.

Unexpected Drama—A Reminder of Childish School Days

The person responsible for answering the phone at the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Office stopped answering the phone when DeShon’s mother would call from her central Florida phone (identified by area code on caller I.D.). So DeShon’s mother started calling their office from her other cell phone (which has a Tallahassee area code).  At first, the person would answer the phone without incident—eventually the person stopped answering the phone altogether. The person not answering the phone wasn’t due to DeShon’s mother calling excessively—it was due to Mr. Shippy’s (previously Mr. Olmstead) unwilling to want to properly represent DeShon.  It didn’t take long for the phone game to get old—it was just one of many games that DeShon’s mother had to play with people working for state agencies that are getting paid with taxpayer dollars. Over the past 2 years, it has been nearly unbelievable how much work has been involved in the process of just trying to get a fair and equal trial. Since Mr. Shippy wouldn’t return DeShon’s mother’s calls, she decided to reach out to Mr. Shippy via U.S. Mail. She also copied 1st District Regional Counsel Jeff Lewis and Judge Jackie Fulford on most of her letters. Eventually, Mr. Lewis had someone from his office reply to DeShon’s mother. As you will read in the response, the tone is more of an aggravating tone more so than a welcoming one—more so than one would have in appreciation and understanding of a mother wanting to assist her son’s legal defense team save her son from being wrongfully sent into Florida’s prison system. (**click link**) CCCRO LTR 7 23 13

Their Second Time Around

This wasn’t the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office first time assigned to DeShon’s case. As a matter of fact they were assigned to his case 3 times. Jeff Lewis, Regional Counsel over District One, does not work full-time within the Tallahassee office. Not everyone is capable of working unsupervised. Often times—even those in supervisory positions need to be supervised.

The underlining problem with the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, District One was—in August 2012, after DeShon fired his private attorney Gregory Cummings—Circuit Judge James Hankinson appointed DeShon’s case back to the Public Defender’s Office. (In February 2011 the Public Defender’s Office conflicted off of the case—they were able to conflict off of the case again in September 2012.) The Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office was appointed to DeShon’s case—actually—they were re-appointed to Deshon’s case. Now here is where DeShon’s mother’s suspicions of unethical practice began to expand beyond Mr. Cummings. Back in February 2011, to the knowledge of DeShon, his mother, the Leon County Clerk of Courts and the person answering the phone at the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office—there were no other attorney assigned to DeShon’s case. Back in February 2011, before the Public Defender’s Office conflicted off of DeShon’s case, they were very informative and took it upon themselves to contact DeShon’s mother to inform her of any court dates and other input concerning DeShon’s case. The Public Defender’s Office wanted to make sure that DeShon’s mother was aware of what was going on with DeShon’s case so that she could help reinforce DeShon’s understanding of the charges (DeShon was only 17-years-old at the time of his arrest). The Public Defender’s Office sincerely seemed to want the best possible outcome for DeShon. The Public Defender’s Office are the ones who set the foundation as to how a legal team should work with the defendant that they are responsible for representing—not looking to do any favors—just looking to present the facts of the case.

That was not so for Circuit Judge James Hankinson and the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office. Back in February 2011, when the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office was assigned to DeShon’s case, no one made contact with DeShon or his mother. DeShon and his mother repeatedly called the Leon County Clerk of Courts and the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office nearly begging for a contact name for whoever replaced his Public Defender—to no avail. So now—fast-forward to nearly two years later (September 2012) and just imagine the shockwave that went through DeShon’s mother when she learned that DeShon was not only court appointed an attorney from the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel—where the attorney never Filed a First Appearance, which is required by all attorneys when they come on a case—and then the attorney never contacted DeShon to let him know that he had come onto the case. DeShon wasn’t in jail charged with stealing a piece of bubble gum from Circle K—this teenage boy, who was a full-time freshman college student and employee—was in jail for murdering two people—the female victim was pregnant—her toddler daughter was left in the home to fend for herself.

At the time of the murders—nobody knew for sure that DeShon was the father of the deceased unborn baby. In Det. Mike Reeves report, dated January 31, 2011, there’s a statement from the female victim’s 21-year-old boyfriend–he states that he thought (because she told him) that he was the father of her unborn baby. So instead of Leon County Sheriff’s Detectives saying DeShon murdered her because he didn’t want her to have the baby—they should’ve investigated all angles—they could’ve looked at it and said maybe the boyfriend murdered her because he found out that he wasn’t the father—maybe since she was moving to Jacksonville she told him that he wasn’t the father.

In March 2011, Mr. Olmstead conflicted off of the case—whereas DeShon was court-appointed a conflict-free attorney. Again, DeShon was not made aware that he’d been assigned a conflict-free attorney. It is believed that the conflict-free attorney had not been informed that he’d been assigned DeShon’s case. In regards to the murder charges, the Leon County Clerk of Courts was not made aware that DeShon had been assigned a conflict-free attorney. Sure, all of this may sound like possible episodes where communication was lacking—that’s what it may sound like. However, after the Public Defender’s Office contacted DeShon’s mother and told her that they were getting off of the case, DeShon’s mother didn’t know what to expect. Although she knew that she wasn’t going to hire a private attorney until she’d spoken with DeShon’s court-appointed attorney, she was inclined to speak to a private attorney just in case if she was going to need one. Mr. Gregory Cummings was one of the attorneys whom DeShon’s mother had spoken/met with. Before and after meeting with Mr. Cummings, DeShon’s mother told him that she was not going to hire an attorney until after she’d spoken with DeShon’s court appointed attorney. Nearly a month passed —no attorney had been named on DeShon’s case. Meanwhile, Mr. Cummings was aggressively soliciting DeShon’s mother to get her to hire him to represent her son. Each time DeShon’s mother repeated her need to wait to speak with DeShon’s court appointed attorney.

When DeShon’s mother, a single parent—who took out a loan against her life insurance policy as part of a way to pay Mr. Cummings nearly $30,000 learned that two of DeShon’s previous court appointed attorneys had been withheld from her and DeShon’s knowledge… In addition, in response to the Florida Bar complaint that DeShon’s mother filed against Mr. Cummings (which fell flat), Mr. Cummings basically acknowledges Circuit Judge James Hankinson’s willingness to do whatever he (Mr. Cummings) asks of him to do. From DeShon’s mother’s point of view that means purposely withholding the information/names of the very attorneys that he (Circuit Judge Hankinson) assigned to represent him—allowing time for Mr. Cummings to harass DeShon’s mother during their most vulnerable state.

So again, now that Mr. Cummings has been fired—the same attorney from February 2011—the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office is being reassigned to the case? There were only two questions that DeShon’s mother wanted to know—what happened with him back in 2011? And—what is it going to take for DeShon to get a fair and equal trial? DeShon’s mother left several messages on the attorney’s voicemail. She also mailed the attorney a few letters—no response. Six months on the case—this attorney did absolutely nothing! This attorney with the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office did absolutely nothing in regards to DeShon’s defense. Circuit Judge James Hankinson allowed this—the same as he allowed State Prosecutor Jack Campbell and Mr. Cummings to play patty-cake for nearly 16 months—he allowed this attorney to play ghost—not appearing at quite a number of DeShon’s case management hearings.

In June 2013, Judge Jackie Fulford replaced Circuit Judge James Hankinson.

Simultaneous to DeShon firing Mr. Cummings, DeShon was put in solitary confinement—his phone and visitation privileges were taken away. This made it just about impossible for DeShon’s mother to get him another private attorney. Nearly a year after being in solitary confinement, State Prosecutor Jack Campbell filed a motion with the court—blocking DeShon’s mother from visiting—basically stating that his mother helped manipulate their phone system to arrange the “hit” put out on their key witness, Trentin Ross. This accusation was none other than another ploy to keep DeShon’s mother from being able to effectively communicate with her son in a timely manner about his U.S. Constitutional Rights (in which DeShon’s rights have been severely violated). (**click link**) Motion Barring Visitation 8 2 13

In September 2013, two weeks before DeShon’s trial, Mr. Shippy called DeShon’s mother to inform her about DeShon’s need for clothes to wear during trial—he also asked for contact information for one of the witnesses. DeShon’s mother reminded Mr. Shippy that that was the job of a private investigator—one to get the contact information of all of the witnesses. (DeShon’s mother had offered to pay for a private investigator to assist Mr. Shippy—to no avail.) It was brought to DeShon’s mother’s attention that Mr. Shippy had called several of DeShon’s family members trying to get contact information of witnesses—to which none of them, including DeShon’s mother, had the information.

During trial, Mr. Shippy called DeShon’s mother out in open court about the presence of a witness—stating that she should’ve informed him about the witnesses’ presence in the courtroom. Again, had there been a private investigator on the case—this wouldn’t have happened. If Mr. Shippy had developed an open line of communication with DeShon’s mother—this wouldn’t have happened. Fortunately, the courtroom bailiff corrected Mr. Shippy—that witness was not present in the courtroom during the time in which Mr. Shippy was crying about.  Also, there were several Leon County Sheriff’s Detectives that could’ve assisted with exonerating DeShon—Mr. Shippy either didn’t have them subpoenaed to trial or when they took the stand he didn’t ask them the proper questions. For example, Mr. Shippy didn’t ask Det. Melinda McBride about what the victims’ brother and mother telling her about Sterling (the male victim) buying $400 worth of drugs with fake money shortly before the murders. Neither did Mr. Shippy ask the victims’ mother about a confrontation that her daughter, Laqecia (the female victim) had been involved in within 48 hours of her murder to which several threatening Facebook posts between Laqecia and her once bestfriend were extremely serious—her daughter owed about $350 to the bestfriend and the bestfriend’s mother. Since everybody knew that the victims were leaving to go to Jacksonville—the people that they two victims had wronged monetarily knew that if the victims left town then they weren’t going to get their money. This information was provided early on in the investigation—before DeShon’s was charged with the murders.

The week of October 14, 2013 DeShon got his day in court—the verdict—after all that had been done and had not been done—was not surprising to DeShon’s mother. It’s simply —if a woman doesn’t want a man to know her level of intelligence about engine parts in fear that she may intimidate the man—then she’ll play stupid, however, from time to time, naturally, her level of intelligence will show. The same can be said about Mr. Shippy. On the fourth day of court (while DeShon was on the stand testifying on his own behalf—after he’d made State Prosecutor Jack Campbell look like a plum fool )  Judge Fulford immediately called for a long side bar—the longest ever. Afte side bar she whispered in a bailiff’s ear–next DeShon’s mother and brother (his only support team) were kicked out of the courtroom. They were told because of gesturing and whispering. While DeShon’s mother does not deny gesturing or whispering—it was not to the level to where she and her son—had to be removed from the courtroom. Besides that, Judge Fulford never gave specific rules of the courtroom other than cell phone usage—and when the victims’ family members were doing a lot of walking in and out of the courtroom. DeShon’s mother was told by another person that after they were kicked out of the courtroom, Judge Fulford explained the rules of the courtroom to others. Judge Fulford should never expect people to automatically know courtroom etiquette. It is her duty to go over the rules and what she expects of those in the courtroom before trial begins. Not wait and have a defendant’s family members removed from the courtroom in front of the jury. It’s possible that Judge Fulford may have been paying more attention to DeShon’s mother than the jurors themselves. What Judge Fulford saw DeShon’s mother doing—may have gone unnoticed by the jurors.

Like everything else, being kicked out of the courtroom was something that DeShon’s mother took in stride. Looking at DeShon’s case as a whole— had DeShon’s mother and brother been allowed to be present in the courtroom for DeShon’s entire trial would’ve probably made people think that there was some shred of dignity within the Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit.

Author: MAUL10

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