NAPLES — One of Collier County jail’s most frequent inmates was expected to walk out of the jailhouse doors a free man Wednesday night.
Patrick Rosemellia, 46, whose rap sheet contains about two dozen felony convictions and more misdemeanors, was expected to leave the jail hours after Circuit Judge Frank Baker granted his defense attorneys’ motion to enforce a plea agreement they contended the State Attorney’s Office reneged on.
The man he was to testify against as a star witness — Naples bondsman Joe Houston — still hadn’t posted his bond by 7:30 p.m.
“The state and Mr. Rosemellia had an agreement, and my client did his part,” defense attorney Beverly Brennan, co-counsel with attorney Michelle Hill, said afterward. “I’m very glad that Judge Baker took the time to consider our arguments and then held the state to their promise.”
Two months ago, Baker denied their motions, but Hill filed a new one, attaching transcripts to prove Rosemellia — once the state’s star witness in cases against Houston and his business partner, Juanita Williams — hadn’t changed his testimony. Hill and Brennan argued he had consistently maintained he had no agreement with Houston to pay him for sending inmates to him for bonds.
In April, Baker ruled that Rosemellia violated a plea agreement and sentenced him to five years in state prison for acting as a bail bondsman without a license and violating probation due to a new drug arrest.
A day before sentencing, Brennan filed a motion to enforce the 15-month plea agreement.
Assistant State Attorney Dave Scuderi told the judge he revoked the plea deal after Rosemellia changed his story in depositions and court hearings.
Wednsday afternoon, as Houston and Williams watched, Baker sentenced Rosemellia to 19.4 months in prison, time served because Rosemellia had been held 23 months. He hugged his lawyers, but was returned to jail to be processed and released.
He’s not truly a free man because he was arrested on a drug charge four days after his release from prison last September.
The bond case, which relied on Rosemellia, took years for investigators and prosecutors to build against Houston and his business partner, Williams, and Liberty Bail Bonds and Express Bail Bonds. It sparked protests that the two were being targeted because they are black.
Evidence included hundreds of taped phone calls from inmates to Houston’s offices, videotapes of an employee making bank deposits into inmates’ jail commissary accounts, and Rosemellia’s own admissions that Houston paid him with hundreds of dollars’ worth of honeybuns over more than 13 years.
It’s against the law for a bail bond agent to solicit business in or around a jail or prison. Requests to post bond must come from an inmate, a relative, or an inmate’s attorney.
But the tapes showed Rosemellia sent business Houston’s way.
The state’s case began falling apart in February, when Baker granted defense attorney Donald Day’s motion to dismiss most felony charges against 36-year-old Houston after Rosemellia denied they’d ever had a “payment agreement.” The judge agreed Rosemellia — if he could be believed — offered other explanations for his taped comments, weakening the state’s case.
A month later, Scuderi dropped charges against Williams, 52. He also revoked Rosemellia’s plea bargain, arguing Rosemellia had changed his story — the testimony needed to convict the two.
The next month, the judge sentenced Rosemellia and a day later, the state quietly dropped charges against another Houston employee, Zenova Abrahams, 41.
Houston and a secretary, Arrie Denise Robinson, 47, still face trials. He’s charged with employing Robinson, a convicted felon, while she’s charged with being a convict while working at a bail bonds firm — which is forbidden. Robinson has a hearing Friday, while Houston’s trial is set for October.