final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit,
Broward County; Matthew I. Destry, Judge; L.T. Case No.
Haughwout, Public Defender, and Tatjana Ostapoff, Assistant
Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellant.
Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Jeanine
Germanowicz, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for
appeals his convictions and sentences for three counts of
providing false information to law enforcement in a missing
child investigation. Appellant raises several issues,
including that the trial court erred in denying his motion to
dismiss and in finding that a non-state prison sanction
presented a danger to the public. We affirm the denial of the
motion to dismiss based on the plain language of the statute
under which appellant was charged. However, we reverse
appellant's sentence because the trial court's order
was insufficient to support a finding that appellant was a
danger to the public. We affirm the remaining issues without
was charged with three counts of providing false information
to law enforcement during the investigation of his missing
child. He made the allegedly false statements on January 9
and 10, 2013. On January 11 and 12, the child's skeletal
remains were found in the backyard of the residence appellant
had shared with Brittney Cierra, who was his girlfriend and
the deceased child's mother. Forensics determined that
the child had died in July 2011 at the age of five months,
around the same time the child had gone missing.
moved to dismiss the charges, arguing there was no nexus
between the false information he provided to law enforcement
and the child's death since the child had died a year and
a half before he gave the false information. The state argued
that the statute and jury instruction did not contain any
language requiring a causal connection. The trial court
agreed with the state and denied the motion to dismiss.
Thereafter, appellant entered an open plea to the charges,
reserving the right to appeal the denial of his motion to
during the sentencing hearing revealed that on January 9,
2013, Child Protective Services and a police officer went to
appellant and Cierra's house to investigate the
well-being of the children residing there. According to a
report, Cierra used drugs, verbally abused the children, and
threatened to physically harm them. At the house, when
questioned about the missing child's whereabouts,
appellant told the authorities that the child was with the
paternal grandmother. When the child could not be located, a
detective became involved in the case.
next day, during a five-hour long interview with the police,
appellant repeatedly stated that the child had been taken to
a fire station. Towards the end of the interview, appellant
admitted he believed the missing child was dead because he
had an argument with Cierra and left for a couple of months.
When he came back, Cierra said, "[I]f you love me . . .
you will forgive me, " but would not tell him what she
was referring to. He told the detectives to "look under
the ground" behind the house where appellant used to
live with Cierra and drew a map for the detectives. A search
of the backyard revealed the skeletal remains of the missing
testified that he lied to the police because he was "in
love, and being stupid." According to appellant, Cierra
threatened to harm the children every time he left her.
Appellant also testified he told the police that there was a
spot in the backyard where Cierra would sit and cry.
the hearing, the trial court found that imposing a non-state
prison sanction on appellant would present a danger to the
public. The court stated:
Through his lies and misdirection, the Defendant confused and
delayed the investigation in the disappearance of a child,
his child, who was ultimately found dead and buried in his
own backyard. The Defendant's actions put other young
children at risk; most directly those who lived in the home
with him and his paramour. His actions would allow others to
carry out violence against children with potential impunity.
trial court sentenced appellant to consecutive terms of five
years' imprisonment on two counts ...