State attorney drops charges against 24 suspects, police facing lawsuits

Suspected criminals are out on the street, not behind bars. This is all because the police officers who arrested them are also accused of breaking the law.

A lawsuit claims members of Fort Myers Police Department used a compromised informant to track down accused drug dealers, including one who is a sex offender, so charges against two dozen people are being dropped.

“Their job is to do one thing, to go in and make the buy, that’s it,” said Dr. David Thomas, who has a Ph.D. in forensic psychology. “And anything after that becomes illegal and taints that person.”

New video captures the informant moments before and after she allegedly performed a sex act on a suspect. FMPD is accused of using the informant in several cases, so all the cases have been thrown out. FMPD provided us with the video recorded in 2016 that shows the informant before and after a drug bust.

Because of this, the state attorney dropped multiple drug charges against 24 suspects, including one who is a registered sex offender.

“Had you put in the time up front, you have the arrest that’s legit,” Thomas said. “And that person is off the street.”

Two of the suspects are suing the City of Fort Myers and eight officers involved, including Captain Jay Rodriguez, who’s under investigation for sexual misconduct during a prostitution sting, an officer investigated for perjury and later fired and a former assistant state attorney. The suit claims officers not only knew about the video but played the video in a conference room, laughing at it.

“To hear more and more coming out and, there’s still no type of accountability or any type of answers for the community,” Crystal Johnson said.

Hanna Renna, the former assistant state attorney, filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. According to court documents, the goal is to have the case go to trial in one or two years.

The city will now have to pay legal fees to defend the accused officers in court.

“Lawsuits come forward, we’re going to defend them,” Mayor Randall Henderson said.

Reporter:Britni McDonald
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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