1900 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL
NAPLES — A former Collier sheriff's deputy charged with forcing a 15-year-old boy to perform sex acts in a Coastland Center mall bathroom is expected to head to trial in January.
And a related civil lawsuit against the mall and its security company involving Charles "Chuck" Bullock's alleged crimes may feature an unlikely witness: Santa Claus.
"According to a witness, Santa Claus may know other children who may have been molested by the same perpetrator at the same mall," said attorney Jason Turchin of Weston, who represents Mom and Jon Doe in the civil lawsuit.
In the criminal case, Bullock, 52, who is free on $35,000 bond, faces up to 15 years in state prison if convicted of lewd and lascivious battery of a person between 12 and 16, and five years if convicted of official misconduct involving falsifying public records, his time cards.
He's set for trial Jan. 9. The 12-year veteran, who is married with at least one child, was fired after his April 2010 arrest. An internal affairs investigation still is pending.
Defense attorney Jerry Berry declined to comment. Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca is prosecuting, but it's the office's policy not to comment before trial.
The boy, who was a Naples High School freshman, is small for his age, according to Turchin, and was taunted by classmates, causing his grades to drop "significantly," so the boy, now 17, is working on his degree through an online school.
"He's having trouble living a normal life," Turchin said. "His grades dropped significantly and he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder."
Naples police reports say a Subway manager saw Bullock twice loitering in the restroom near the food court, and stared at men and boys while urinating, so he alerted a janitor, who saw Bullock peering into the boy's stall on Feb. 17, 2010. The janitor told a security officer and police that Bullock spent a lot of time in the bathroom, pretending to use the urinals or wash his hands.
Bullock was tracked down and confronted by Naples police Officer Steve Walden and the mall's director of security, John Casciano of Valor Security Services.
The boy told police Bullock molested him, threatened him and forced him to fondle him in the bathroom. He said that in late January, Bullock also pulled him into a stall and forcibly performed a sex act on him. A few weeks later, he said Bullock accosted him again in the bathroom.
Two witnesses, a girl, 17, and boy, 15, told police the teen was visibly upset after walking out of the bathroom on Feb. 17.
Mall security cameras captured Bullock following the boy into the restroom that day and on Feb. 5. They also showed Bullock, a civil process employee who wasn't in uniform, often loitering in the food court area's bathroom.
There were news reports that, months after Bullock's arrest, the Naples mall's cameras were removed and not replaced. Despite that, the defendants' attorney, John Campbell, had refused to disclose the location of cameras, arguing it would hurt mall security. He said only: "There are multiple security cameras."
Turchin tried three times to obtain some evidence, including employment files of Santa Claus and other employees working in the mall's Christmas exhibit in 2009 and 2010. Turchin was tipped off after an employee contended she and an assistant manager reported Bullock to security and the cleaning crew in November and December of 2009.
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Campbell, who represented the defendants until recently, objected, calling Santa and those employees "irrelevant."
Campbell also maintained there were no documents that proved mall management knew who Bullock was, although witnesses have said management and security officers knew him well — and had been alerted.
In court papers, Campbell contends the mall isn't liable.
Campbell has maintained it wasn't a "reasonably foreseeable" attack, but court documents show Turchin intends to prove mall management and security were alerted and that employees hired to monitor surveillance video didn't notice the suspicious behavior — and weren't even watching monitors.
"Rarely, if ever, was she looking at the screens," Turchin said of one employee hired to watch security monitors.
Campbell wants to know how much Jon Doe received from the state Attorney General's Victims Compensation Trust Fund, an amount he could argue should be subtracted from a jury verdict. An attorney general's spokeswoman said the law prohibits her from disclosing the amount to the Daily News because it involves a sex crime victim.
Because several days of video footage from January through Feb. 15, 2010, is missing and one camera wasn't working, there's a possibility there will be allegations of destruction of evidence. Turchin said video footage past a 60-day period he'd requested also was destroyed.
In June, County Magistrate Jim McGarity ordered the mall to turn over evidence. Still, Campbell missed deadlines and no longer represents the defendants.
Neither he nor the new defense attorney, David Lipkin of Fort Lauderdale, could be reached for comment.