Why Florida 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge Throw The Dog “BIG” Bones?

Everyone has their own opinions about what motivates attorneys when it comes to representing their clients. The majority of people feel like attorneys are motivated by how much money they can swindle out of their clients. While some people feel like there are some attorneys that are motivated by the love of practicing law—privileged to represent those in the courtroom whose rights have been violated by others (some people believe that this group of attorneys is usually the younger attorneys—fresh out of law school—who haven’t been tainted by their older colleagues or hardnosed judges—those who don’t have favors to return—are not in debt to others). Being as though at one point or another, judges were lawyers—they know that judges and judicial officers of the courts take an oath of office. As stated on the Judicial Qualifications Commission website, “Other government agencies may deprive you of your rights, rightly or wrongly, but only a judge can deny you of your rights.”

When DeShon Thomas’ mother first met with Criminal Defense Attorney Gregory Cummings in mid-February 2011, she told Mr. Cummings that her son’s case had been sent to the Criminal Conflict Regional Counsel’s Office and that she and her son were waiting to speak with the attorney assigned to his case. Mr. Cummings then told DeShon’s mother that he receives cases through the Criminal Conflict Regional’s Office. DeShon’s mother asked if there was any kind of way that he (Mr. Cummings) could represent DeShon through the Criminal Conflict Regional Counsel’s Office. Mr. Cummings said no, because cases are assigned to attorneys in order and that he was not on the list to receive a case anytime soon. Mr. Cummings told DeShon’s mother if she wanted him to represent her son—it would be her hiring him as a private attorney—paying him directly. As a single mother with limited funds, DeShon’s mother had no reason to be in a hurry to hire a private attorney. (Years earlier, DeShon’s mother won 2 lawsuits in mediation, so she had an idea of what evidence needed to be brought to the table to support the charges. The lawsuits that she’d filed were mostly because of principal—not at all because of greed or need for money.)

After their meeting, in the days that followed, Mr. Cummings aggressively solicited DeShon’s mother to hire him. On March 9, 2011 a little over a month since 17-year-old DeShon Thomas had been charged with Two Counts of 1st Degree Murder, DeShon had no attorney; on the same day the State Attorney’s Office announced that in addition to the murder charges, they were charging DeShon with Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent. DeShon, who had already pled Not Guilty to the murder charges—didn’t understand why he was being charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Juvenile Delinquent. DeShon and his mother knew that Leon County Sheriff’s Office didn’t have the murder weapon—so they too were wondering why over 30 days after his arrest was he receiving this new charge. With no attorney to help them understand what was going on with the past—now current—and future process of what’s to come—not only were things becoming very scary for DeShon and his mother—they didn’t know how much longer was DeShon going to be sitting in jail without an attorney. Low and behold, that very day (March 9, 2011), Mr. Cummings called DeShon’s mother. This time Mr. Cummings was no longer asking DeShon’s mother about hiring him—he was telling DeShon’s mother that she needs to hire him. Mr. Cummings basically stated the incompetence of the judicial system as the reason for the delay as to why DeShon hadn’t been assigned an attorney. DeShon’s mother was confused by the whole process, including the extreme delay of an attorney being assigned to DeShon’s case—she agreed to hire Mr. Cummings. Mr. Cummings told DeShon’s mother that he would email her the Contract for Service. They agreed to meet on March 12, 2011 to sign it. The next day (March 10, 2011), Mr. Cummings emailed DeShon’s mother a copy of the Contract. (**click link**) OM 3 10 11 On March 9, 10, and 11 DeShon and his mother contacted both the Leon County Clerk of Courts and the Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office seeking out his attorney—neither office had any information.

In late March 2013, DeShon’s mother found out that Mr. Cummings was in trial representing Mr. Elijah James. Mr. James, who was convicted in February 2011 in Georgia in the 2010 arson case where he set his missing girlfriend’s car on fire, was extradited to Tallahassee to stand trial for his girlfriend’s murder—although her body had not been found. State Prosecutor Jack Campbell was set to convict Mr. James—Circuit Judge James Hankinson presided over the case.

On April 2, 2013 after having been denied his motion to withdraw from DeShon’s case by Judge Hankinson, Daren Shippy appeared in court for DeShon’s case management hearing. While the hearing took place in Judge Hankinson’s courtroom, Judge Hankinson was in another courtroom presiding over Mr. James’ case. As Mr. Shippy walked into the courtroom, walking alongside of him was Mr. Cummings. The two of them were talking—Mr. Cummings looked to be stroking Mr. Shippy as if he was a pet weasel. Mr. Cummings then walked over and shook the hand of a deputy. Afterwards, he sat in the front row. DeShon’s case was the first to be called. At the conclusion of the brief discussion, Mr. Cummings thanked Mr. Shippy and proceeded to leave the courtroom (more than likely to go back to represent Mr. James).

Finding out that Mr. Cummings was representing Mr. James in his high-profile murder case (the first murder case in Tallahassee to be tried without a body), DeShon’s mother wanted to see how much work had Mr. Cummings done on Mr. James’ case—considering Mr. Cummings had done none on DeShon’s case. She went to the Leon County Clerk of Courts Records Division and requested Mr. James’ file. Not surprised—DeShon’s mother saw that Mr. Cummings had done a ton of work on Mr. James’ case—nearly a thousand times more than DeShon’s. If one were to look at DeShon’s case file after DeShon fired Mr. Cummings, one would probably think that Mr. Cummings didn’t know what he was doing because absolutely nothing had been done to build a defense for DeShon. On the other hand, if one were to look at Mr. James’ case file—his case file was overflowing—he had two files. While DeShon’s mother was mainly looking to compare the amount of work done on DeShon’s case and Mr. James’ case (keep in mind that DeShon’s mother had paid Mr. Cummings nearly $30,000)—as DeShon’s mother flipped through the huge amount of documents—it was like a hand reached out of the file and slapped her. There she stood reading an Order Granting Motion to Withdraw As Counsel And Order Appointing New Conflict-Free Counsel. The order was allowing the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel, Region One to withdraw and appoint Greg Cummings as new conflict-free counsel for defendant—the date when Mr. Cummings was appointed to represent Mr. James was March 9, 2011—the same day that he called DeShon’s mother telling her that she needed to hire him to represent DeShon—basically blaming the incompetence of the judicial system for the delay as to why DeShon had not been assigned an attorney. (**click link**) Order EJ Case

The majority of Tallahassee residence cannot afford the high cost of legal representation. Because of that—there are several attorneys who have to close their private practice and work for either the Public Defender’s Office or the Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel’s Office—if not directly—then indirectly as a conflict-free attorney. An attorney in private practice working as a conflict-free attorney may seem to have to show some form of allegiance to the judges in which gives him/her cases to which there’s longevity and a guaranteed steady paycheck in that realm. With a single client, who will come and go—who may go without paying in full—there’s no allegiance to them. Although DeShon’s mother promised Mr. Cummings that she’d pay him in full—with nearly $30,000 netting DeShon absolutely nothing—not even a Defense Witness List—then surely $50,000 was only going to end with guilty verdicts.

DeShon went to trial being represented by a court-appointed attorney. After DeShon’s mother spent nearly $30,000 he had to default to the use of taxpayers’ dollars. There was one witness, Trentin Ross, that gave State Prosecutor Jack Campbell an incriminating testimony against DeShon—to which everyone knows that if there was any shred of truth to Mr. Ross’ statement, he too would be charged with something in connection with the murders. Although the jury has spoken, DeShon’s mother’s intuition about Mr. Cummings was accurate—the reason for Mr. Cummings not objecting to State Prosecutor Jack Campbell’s 4 or so Motions for Continuances was because he (Campbell) had nothing—Trentin Ross was not going to come to Tallahassee and lie for them. During the trial, Trentin Ross’ attorney, Paul Srygley, stated that he was holding out trying to work the best possible deal for his client who’d only been charged with cultivation of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. So basically holding out for over 2 years… It took State Prosecutor Jack Campbell and Det. Newlin to make arrangements with an inmate in order to get Trentin Ross to believe that there was a hit out on his life–they needed him to get back to Tallahassee to testify—to LIE. (**click link**) egc 7 18 12  This email is in response to DeShon’s mother’s email which was sent out in April–this is a great example of how out of touch Mr. Cummings was with not just DeShon’s mother but also DeShon. The email also brings to the forefront that Mr. Cummings knew what State Prosecutor Jack Campbell and Trentin Ross’ attorney were up too but instead of doing what was best for his client (DeShon Thomas), Mr. Cummings and Circuit Judge Hankinson allowed them to do their “Dog and Pony” show–as Mr. Cummings continued to collect DeShon’s mother’s thousand dollar payments.

It’s been said that State Prosecutor Jack Campbell, Criminal Defense Attorney Gregory Cummings and Circuit Judge James Hankinson all mostly work Tallahassee’s high-profile cases. It’s been said that 2nd District State Attorney Willie Meggs allows Jack Campbell to do whatever he feels—regardless. It seems that judges in Florida’s 2nd Judicial Circuit seem to sign off on whatever Jack Campbell puts in front of them to sign without any reservations.

DeShon’s mother spoke with a few other private attorneys in Tallahassee about DeShon’s case. At the time in which she spoke with them—there was no problem for them to take on the case. Not long thereafter, neither of the attorneys was able to represent DeShon—the both attorneys (conflict-free counsels) had clients who were inmates—their clients had been associated with DeShon’s Solicitation to Commit 1st Degree Murder case.

It seems like the Florida Bar has no problem cleaning up the backyards of attorneys in other counties—but when it comes to cleaning up Mr. Cummings backyard—the Florida Bar says—Mr. Cummings did not violate any of their rules. This is what was stated after DeShon’s mother filed a complaint with the Florida Bar. When DeShon, himself, filed a complaint with The Florida Bar—well, he has yet to hear back from them. Mr. Cummings hand delivered his response to The Florida Bar in regards to DeShon’s mother’s complaint—no matter what The Florida Bar stated—Mr. Cummings violated several of their rules. The question is—who did Mr. Cummings throw a “Big Bone” to when he hand delivered his response to them. If Mr. Cummings and a private investigator can travel to the Virgin Islands to get a statement from a character witness using taxpayers’ money—then surely he has the ability to throw “Big Bones.”

Judge James Hankinson may have been removed from presiding over DeShon’s case—but in late July 2013—he supported State Prosecutor Jack Campbell by signing the Order to prevent DeShon’s mother from visiting with DeShon. State Prosecutor Jack Campbell has not failed to get the support of many locals when it comes to his frivolous claims. One could only hope that those who support him realize what they’re getting into.

Side Note: Mr. Cummings told DeShon’s mother that he is a sole proprietor—has an office in Tallahassee but works from his home in Eastpoint, FL without a paralegal. After DeShon’s mother learned about his simultaneous representation on two high-profile cases, she filed another complaint against Mr. Cummings with The Florida Bar (again). (Keep in mind, Mr. Cummings had not filed anything in a 16 months time period to build a defense–had not spoken to any of defense witnesses, had not filed a defense witness list, had only been to the jail to speak with DeShon 3 times, did not depose the one witness who gave an incriminating statement–nothing.) This time DeShon’s mother specifically stated the Rule of Professional Conduct that she believes Mr. Cummings violated:

Rule 4-1.3 Diligence: A lawyer’s workload must be controlled so that each matter can be handled competently.  

DeShon’s mother has yet to hear a response from The Florida Bar. This type of service cannot be viewed as acceptable by the Florida Supreme Court.