JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The attorney for a man accused in a murder-for-hire plot to kill St. Johns County father Jared Bridegan in Jacksonville Beach in 2022 has filed a motion to disqualify the Fourth Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office from prosecuting him.
The motion, filed Wednesday by attorneys for Mario Fernandez Saldana, including Jesse Dreicer, cites concerns about the prosecution gaining access to communications between Saldana and his estranged wife, Shanna Gardner, as well as communications between Saldana and his attorneys.
Gardner, who is Bridegan’s ex-wife, is also charged in Bridegan’s murder.
Before reviewing Saldana’s devices that were seized during the execution of a search warrant in February, the defense and assistant state attorney agreed a “taint team” would go through the devices and remove communications that were privileged through technology called Nextpoint.
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The motion states:
“Despite the State’s repeated assertions that any and all attorney-client privileged communications would be removed or otherwise deleted by a taint team, on September 27, undersigned counsel and the assigned ASA had a conversation at the Duval County Courthouse, in which Mr. Dreicer believed the ASA referenced privileged information. Specifically, the assigned ASA told undersigned counsel she found incriminating evidence against the Defendant, and that this evidence consisted of a Word document titled ‘Confidential Communications.’”
The defense requests that, in addition to the Fourth Judicial Circuit being disqualified from prosecuting Fernandez Saldana, the “Nextpoint portal be immediately deactivated for all users, so a new taint team can be assembled to review all discovery and and remove all privileged communications, including but not limited to emails, email attachments, calls, text messages, and any other information shared and created for the purpose of attorney client communications.”
READ THE FULL MOTION BELOW:
Our Action News Jax law and safety expert Dale Carson says this motion is not surprising to see in a case like this, especially when there is so much evidence.
“You’re preserving the defendant’s right to argue in an appellate situation that the state had information it should not have possessed at the time of trial,” Carson said.
Carson says this shouldn’t impact the criminal trial.
“I don’t think it’s going to have any effect on the case,” Carson said.
While he believes this won’t affect the trial, he says it could have an impact post-conviction.
“This is something for the appellate courts,” Carson said. “This is not necessarily something for anything before trial.”
The next court date for Gardner and Fernandez Saldana is Dec. 1 at 9 a.m.
Bridegan, a St. Johns County father of four, was gunned down Feb. 16, 2022, in Jacksonville Beach. He had just taken his twins he shared with Gardner, and his then-2-year-old Bexley, his daughter with wife Kirsten Bridegan, to dinner.
The software engineer had just dropped off the twins at Gardner’s house when he encountered a tire on Sanctuary Boulevard, a one-way road. He was headed home to his second wife, Kirsten Bridegan, with whom he shared children Bexley and London.
Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Gene Paul Smith said during the announcement of the first arrest in January, that “the tire was purposely placed there to make him stop which he did.”
“Tragically he began to exit his vehicle to move the tire and he was gunned down in cold blood,” Smith said.
Bridegan was shot several times while Bexley was still strapped into a car seat in the back seat of his car.
Fernandez Saldana was arrested in March on charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, child abuse, and solicitation to commit a capital felony.
The arrest of Henry Tenon, 61, in connection to Bridegan’s murder was announced in January. He was arrested on charges of conspiracy to commit murder, accessory after the fact to a capital felony, child abuse, and second-degree murder
Tenon, who rented a home from Fernandez Saldana, agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder. That means Tenon faces 15 years to life in prison, but not the death penalty.
Gardner was arrested in August in Washington and is facing charges of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, solicitation to commit murder, and child abuse.