State attorney investigation remains ‘under review’

Published: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM.

An investigation by the office of State Attorney Glenn Hess into extortion charges against a local political action committee and its president remains “under review” said David Angier, public information officer for Hess’s office.

“It is still considered an open investigation,” Angier wrote in an email and therefore the file is not available to the public.

This newspaper has asserted that as the original file was closed Oct. 16, that file should be public record. A formal public record request for the file was turned down, Angier wrote, due to the “ongoing review.”

Hess closed the investigation by letter to Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigator Matthew Herring on Oct. 16. In his letter, Hess wrote that people would disagree as to whether the alleged charges of extortion were anything more than dirty politics not rising to the level of criminality.

“A prosecutor’s responsibility is to charge crimes when the facts can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Hess wrote. “In this instance the question is whether there was a crime or just dirty politics. Reasonable people could well differ.”

However, the case was reported by Angier to be reopened after an Oct. 25 meeting of the Board of County Commissioners during which a private citizen and former Commission chair Bill Williams each acknowledged the investigation.

The citizen stated she had met with investigators on three to four occasions and Williams said that he had “worn a wire” as part of an investigation into whether actions by Citizens for Improving Gulf County, a local PAC founded earlier this year, amounted to an attempt to “blackmail” – as it was expressed at least five times by Williams during the Oct. 25 BOCC meeting – County Commissioner Warren Yeager out of the District 5 race.

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