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Rentz v. State

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

December 5, 2019

Kathgret R. Rentz, Appellant,
v.
State of Florida, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Leon County. Robert R. Wheeler, Judge.

          Luke Newman of Luke Newman, P.A., Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Benjamin L. Hoffman, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          B.L. THOMAS, J.

         Appellant challenges the trial court's denial of her motion to withdraw her plea, denial of her motion to suppress, and the reliance on impermissible sentencing factors. We reverse the trial court's denial of Appellant's motion to withdraw her plea and decline to address the other arguments on appeal.

         Facts

         The State charged Appellant with six counts of lewd and lascivious conduct in violation of section 800.04(6)(b), Florida Statutes. All charges were enhanced to first-degree felonies based on Appellant's status as an authority figure at the victim's school, pursuant to section 775.0862, Florida Statutes.

         Officer Brannon of the Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) responded to a report of inappropriate behavior between an adult female and a male child. The complainant informed dispatch that the subjects were kissing and acting inappropriately with one another in the pool area of an apartment complex. When Officer Brannon arrived on scene, he met with a leasing manager who reported that several employees and tenants informed her of inappropriate behavior between an adult female and a male child over the past week. The leasing manager pointed out the suspect and the victim, who were still in the pool.

         Officer Brannon observed the two from the leasing office while they interacted together in the pool. Although Officer Brannon did not see the two touch or kiss, he noted that the way they behaved was "very unusual" and at one point, the child went under water while the suspect "slowly swam directly over him in a seductive manner."

         A short time later, the adult female and male child left the pool and entered the female's vehicle. Officer Brannon approached the vehicle and conducted an investigatory stop. The two were walked to the leasing office and separated. The suspect was identified as Appellant Kathgret Rentz, a twenty-eight-year-old female, and the child was identified as an eleven-year-old male. Appellant informed Officer Brannon that she was close family friends with the child. Officer Brannon read Appellant her Miranda warnings, and she advised him that she wanted an attorney.

         The police took statements from seven independent witnesses who observed inappropriate conduct at the pool between Appellant and the victim. According to the witness statements, the suspect and the victim had been seen kissing and hugging as though they were a couple on various occasions in the previous two weeks. One witness reported seeing the victim grabbing the suspect's breasts in addition to observing them hugging and kissing intimately. A separate witness reported seeing the two "caressing, kissing, and fondling each other in inappropriate places." The consistent theme throughout the accounts was that the two appeared to be a couple that were involved in a romantic relationship.

         The victim's mother arrived on scene, confirmed the victim's age, and informed the police that Appellant was the guidance counselor at the victim's school. Appellant befriended the victim's family and offered to help the victim with his school work and other issues. According to the victim's mother, the victim spent the night at Appellant's residence more than once and "communicated with [Appellant] via cellular phone on a regular basis."

         Appellant was arrested for lewd or lascivious conduct. It was noted that the investigation would be ongoing with pending search warrants. The police obtained nine search warrants, one of which was for ...


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