JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville Sheriff's Office sergeant responsible for botched evidence admits he lied to an assistant public defender.
Judge James Daniel heard arguments Tuesday during motion to dismiss the state’s case against Robert Lewis. Police arrested Lewis earlier this year after he was involved in a fight with his two friends, Clayton and Jason Harrell. Lewis was charged with aggravated battery for firing a shotgun and threatening the brothers with the gun. Lewis was severely beaten with a metal pipe which was eventually destroyed by JSO.
A forensic expert testified in court Tuesday claiming the pipe could prove Lewis was acting in self defense. Michael Knox, of Knox Associates, a Jacksonville-based forensic consulting firm, told the court that the evidence in this case indicates strongly that the crime scene was staged by the alleged victims and that the crime as charged likely didn’t occur.
“Our defense is completely shot,” said Asst. Public Defender Shannon Schott. “Evidence was destroyed; it can never be completely repaired. That error can never be repaired.”
That error came from Sgt. JK Lentz. Lentz says JSO typically waits at least four years before throwing old evidence out. Sgt. Lentz signed off on allowing evidence in an active case to be destroyed.
“For whatever reason I did not catch the 2011 date,” Lentz told the court. “It just demonstrated or in writing on it in a particular submission said the case was closed and that's why I approved it for release."
Lentz came under fire again on the stand. Schott called the evidence room investigating the case earlier this month. She asked Lentz if her counterpart, State Attorney Alex king, was in the room.
“He whispered that it was me on the phone. I asked if Mr. King was there and he said no. Today on the stand he admitted it was a lie,” said Schott.
Action News asked JSO if any changes would be made in the evidence storage process in light of the destroyed evidence and if Sgt. Lentz would face any punishments for lying to Schott. The Director of Police Services, Carol Hladki stated, “Since this incident was brought to our attention we have identified some processes that need to be improved. This is a complex operation, and a process improvement is underway.
Although an employee approved the purge, it was done so within the guidelines at that time and the information available in the system. The supervisor’s chain of command will review any allegation of misconduct, and determine if discipline is warranted.”
Judge Daniels did not rule on the motion to dismiss the case nor would he set a date when that decision would be made.