Court Notebook: Assistant public defender enters plea; tree only victim in crime

An assistant public defender who faced a trial this month for leaving the scene of a crash has been allowed to enter the pretrial diversion program.

Michael Edward Mummert, 33, faced an Oct. 19 trial for leaving the scene, a criminal traffic offense, after he crashed into a tree on July 29. If Mummert, who continued representing clients, successfully completes the program, he won’t face prosecution.

“The facts showed that Mr. Mummert did not commit a crime,” said his defense attorney, Jerry Berry. “... Mr. Mummert, rather than fight the charges, elected to enter the diversion program — a resolution that would have been offered to any other individual with no prior arrests.”

Berry said the investigation showed Mummert was in a single-car crash that occurred near his home and did not have his cell phone. When the officer saw him, Berry said, Mummert was jogging home so he could call the sheriff’s office and report the crash.

Collier County Sheriff’s arrest reports show a witness called 911 on July 29 after he saw a Jeep on top of trees and bushes on Orange Blossom Drive in North Naples, where he saw a man walking away. While talking with a 911 dispatcher, the witness said he asked the man if he was all right and if anyone else was in the Jeep, but the man just looked at him and fled.

Cpl. Robert Palmer arrived at about 7:30 p.m. and saw a man matching the description, a bald man with a white T-shirt, walking eastbound on Orange Blossom Drive near Timberline Drive. A report says he was sweating profusely, breathing heavily, had glassy bloodshot eyes, and smelled of alcohol.

Mummert told Palmer he was walking and jogging and repeatedly asked if he was free to leave after Palmer asked for identification, his name and birth date. Palmer told him he was being detained as part of a crash investigation, but Mummert said he wanted a lawyer, refused to provide any information, and was handcuffed while Palmer investigated.

His Public Defender photo ID was found inside his Jeep and he was booked into the jail on a misdemeanor obstruction charge and the traffic offense and quickly posted $1,000 bond. The crash caused about $5,000 damage to his Jeep and the tree.

Sheriff’s reports show no Breathalyzer or roadside sobriety tests were performed. Under Florida law, a driver cannot be charged with DUI without a “wheel witness,” someone who saw him driving, or if “actual physical control” cannot be proven, such as arriving to find a driver slumped over the wheel.

The State Attorney’s Office filed a “notice of no information” on Aug. 25, dropping the obstruction charge.

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