State attorney's office declined to prosecute multiple Marco Island criminal charges last month due to 'Brady cop'
The state attorney’s office has declined to prosecute multiple criminal cases on Marco Island over the past month, including an assault case that prompted SWAT to respond, citing insufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
The underlying reason for its decisions, however, wasn’t necessarily the evidence itself but rather the officer involved in every one of the arrests.
Tige Thompson looks the part of a normal uniformed police officer. He carries a gun, drives a patrol car and makes arrests, yet a document in his personnel file defines how the State Attorney’s Office handles cases involving him.
“Tige Thompson is on the do-not-subpoena list,” Samantha Syoen, communications director for the State Attorney’s Office, said last month in response to questions about the state’s decisions not to prosecute the SWAT case and two other cases on Marco.
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The so-called list, which is not technically an official document, refers to law enforcement personnel who are sometimes known as “Brady cops,” or officers who have a history of being dishonest when acting in an official capacity.
The origin of the moniker is the 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, which established that prosecutors were required to disclose any exculpatory evidence, including evidence that would impeach a witness.
In December, Thompson was one of the officers who responded to an aggravated assault call that snowballed into a man barricading himself into his home with a cache of weapons. Despite the suspect, Peter Tremont, being charged with three felonies — one count of aggravated assault against a person 65 years of age or older and two counts of aggravated assault against law enforcement officers — the State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute Tremont due to Thompson's involvement, Syoen said.
In court documents, Tremont, 61, was alleged to have threatened his 86-year-old mother while possessing a weapon before telling the officers that responded to the call that they were “going leave his world with him.”
“Come in. I’ve been waiting for you. You’re here to kill me so I will kill you,” Tremont then told two officers, the arrest report says.
With SWAT called to the scene, Tremont surrendered after a standoff spanning a few hours. In a risk protection order filed in Collier County Circuit Court, police said they recovered approximately 25 pistols and rifles at the scene.
Thompson’s placement on the “Brady” list is not a new occurrence. The State Attorney’s Office has a record of sending multiple letters to the Marco Island Police Department over the last several years in which it reiterated its stance about him.
On Nov. 25, 2013, Assistant State Attorney Richard Montecalvo sent a letter to then-Chief Don Hunter in which it was stated that "we can longer utilize Officer Thompson as a witness for the prosecution of criminal cases."
Montecalvo cited Thompson's dismissal from the Collier County Sheriff's Office and Thompson's "allegedly inconsistent and potentially untruthful testimony" during a 2011 DMV hearing for a case, resulting in the State Attorney's Office having to drop the charges, as the reasons.
That case, which revolved around a DUI with property damage charge, saw other police officers contradict Thompson’s account that he witnessed the person driving the vehicle involved in the incident.
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One of two other officers at the hearing stated that when he arrived, the suspect was standing outside the vehicle.
“The other officer stated that there was no way that Thompson could have seen the suspect driving,” an investigator with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wrote in comment sections of his file. “He said that when he asked Thompson if he had seen the suspect driving the vehicle, he was told no.”
While the Marco Island Police Department initiated an internal affairs investigation into Thompson's conduct that found he violated three policies involving integrity, truthfulness and non-compliance with directives, it could not impose discipline due to state law.
In Florida, law enforcement agencies have 180 days to provide notice of discipline after misconduct is alleged.
In a Feb. 2, 2015, follow-up letter to Police Chief Al Schettino, Montecalvo wrote that the State Attorney's Office's position remained unchanged, yet Thompson continues to remain on patrol and make arrests.
The Marco Island Police Department did not respond to questions about why Thompson has not been assigned to duties that do not involve patrol work or making arrests.
The following year, FDLE opened a perjury case into Thompson after receiving the internal affairs report.
FDLE has a list of offenses, which include perjury or false statements, that can result in suspension or revocation of credentialing due to violating the standards of professional compliance.
Despite Thompson’s false statements, FDLE "no caused" the perjury case last year.
In comments entered in its automated training management system, the investigator assigned to the case noted that evidence containing comments of the 911 caller reporting the alleged DUI could not be located and there was no GPS data to ascertain Thompson’s exact position. Thompson was not interviewed as part of the internal affairs investigation.
“Due to the age of the case and evidentiary issues, staff recommends this case be caused, and legal concurs,” the comments stated.
Impact of ‘Brady cop’ status
Thompson’s status as a “Brady cop” has begun to have a noticeable impact recently due to his involvement in multiple higher-profile cases.
In addition to the SWAT incident, the State Attorney’s Office has declined to prosecute then-Marco Island city employee Anthony Chiaradonna, who was arrested by Thompson during the workday last month on charges of driving under the influence and possessing heroin and Suboxone.
Chiaradonna, who was fired from his job days before the State Attorney's Office made its decision not to prosecute, admitted to being addicted to heroin since 2006, his arrest report said.
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Also recently, the State Attorney's Office declined to prosecute Kimamana Heminger, who was arrested on suspicion of DUI by Thompson.
While Heminger was being booked at the Naples Jail Center, Heminger attempted to tamper with the ceiling camera in a cell, prompting a deputy to ask for assistance in restraining her.
Heminger would wipe blood from an open wound on the deputy and reportedly said, "That's my blood on your uniform! Look at it. I want you to see my blood on your uniform."
Although the State Attorney's Office declined to pursue the DUI charge, a charge of battery against a detention facility employee with body fluids has been added.
Since the police department received the 2015 letter regarding how it would treat Thompson, records from the Collier County Clerk of Courts show he has been involved in 12 felony, 30 misdemeanor and 67 criminal traffic cases, none of which have gone to trial.
The results of the cases have been a mixed bag.
Of the 12 felony cases, eight were not prosecuted due to insufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. In the other four cases, the defendant agreed to enter into a pretrial diversion or early intervention program.
For the 30 misdemeanor cases, about one-third of the defendants entered into a pretrial diversion or early intervention program. With the exception of four defendants who pleaded no contest, the remaining cases were not prosecuted, with the reason most often given as insufficient evidence to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
While the same type of results can be seen with the criminal traffic cases, a review of Thompson’s cases over the last year and a half tell a different story.
In the last 25 cases, none of which were prosecuted, the State Attorney’s Office cited insufficient evidence in the vast majority. Out of those 25 cases, a deferred prosecution agreement was reached in two.