Judge denies defense’s motion to disqualify State Attorney’s Office in Jared Bridegan case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A judge will allow local prosecutors to stay on the murder trial of Mario Fernandez and Shanna Gardner.


The defense team for both suspects asked the judge to kick the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office off the case, alleging it violated attorney-client privilege.

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Fernandez and Gardner are charged in what investigators say was a murder-for-hire plot to kill Gardner’s ex-husband, Jared Bridegan in early 2022.

The defense requested that local prosecutors be removed back in Nov. 2023 after arguing the state received attorney-client privileged communication including texts and emails.

“The weight of this decision is not lost on me for either side,” Judge London Kite said.

RELATED: Jared Bridegan murder: Current judge will handle concerns about attorney-client communications

In her ruling made Monday, Judge Kite said the state’s actions were not misconduct, but did say it was “poor judgement”. State attorneys used a taint team to access information.

“The state’s actions left itself open to a high probability that attorney-client privileged information would be exposed to law enforcement and to the state without proper review,” the judge said.

Judge Kite decided text messages between Gardner and her attorneys are not privileged information. However, she did suppress them, which means they can’t be used in court.

In light of the concerns, Judge Kite is setting up a case management hearing for both sies on May 24.

RELATED: Jared Bridegan murder: Judge delays ruling of motion to disqualify local prosecutors

“Where you have a number of defendants at different levels of participation, you want to make sure a path to trial is clear,” Dale Carson, Action News Jax’s Law and Safety Expert, explained.

A bond hearing is set for Gardner on Wednesday. “It is unusual in a homicide case to have the person out on the streets – and for obvious reasons.”

The case management hearing is set for May 24.

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