SWFL father hires high-profile lawyer to bring justice to his son killed in 2016

A heartbroken father wants the state attorney in Southwest Florida investigated for how she handled the shooting death of his son.

Sandy Modell is bringing in a well-known lawyer Ben Crump, who has a track record of success in big cases, to help him in his search for justice after his son, Ryan Modell, who was killed in 2016 in south Fort Myers. The two appeared together during a press conference outside the Collier County courthouse in East Naples Friday.

James Taylor is the homeowner who shot and killed Ryan Modell, and he has never faced any charges in Ryan’s death. We spoke to his attorney, and he says they consider this matter resolved, and that his client has done nothing wrong.

Crump is one of the highest profile attorneys in the country — most recently representing George Floyd’s family, the man who was killed while being taken into custody by former Officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minnesota in May 2020.

“This is a murder case,” Crump told WINK News. “We don’t understand — we are baffled — why this case isn’t being prosecuted.”

Crump and Sandy have a clear plan: They want publicity for Ryan’s death, to put public pressure on State Attorney Amira Fox to bring charges against Ryan’s killer.

“State Attorney Fox, finally give them the due process they deserve,” Crump said. “Give them their day in court. Let a jury hear the facts. The truth is there.”

But Ryan’s father has tried that before, so he and Crump are also calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to appoint a new prosecutor in the case.

Father and son Sandy and Ryan Modell. Credit: Shared with WINK News.

Sandy and Crump argue Florida’s stand your ground law could not possibly apply in Ryan’s death. Ryan knocked on the wrong door on Old Harmony Drive in the Emerson Square community, ended up leaving the property and then was shot and killed two doors down.

“The simple facts are that never needed to happen,” Sandy said.

Sandy believes Fox has a conflict of interest in this case. He’s made that much clear for years, so he believes the governor is his best bet to get his day in court.

“If the governor moves the case as I expect, if they indict as I think they will, if they convict and put what the police call a murderer, if they put that man in jail, I still know my son’s not coming home,” Sandy Modell told WINK News. “It won’t bring him back, but the measure of justice may give us as a family some element of closure.”

Sandy has been at this for years now. This is not his first time in the news.

“As a parent, this is one of the toughest things you’ll ever go through,” Sandy said.

Sandy has pointed to testimony from Deputy Lt. David Lebid of Lee County Sheriff’s Office and questions how the case hasn’t gone to trial in any form. Lebid claimed in a sworn video-recorded statement that, “[What] Mr. Taylor did was completely wrong,” and the shooting was, “a homicide.”

“They were just validations of what we’ve been saying all along,” Sandy said. “Twenty-year police detective that ran both investigations adamantly, concluding this is a murder case.”

Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed it has received Sandy Modell’s complaint, while State Attorney Fox declined to comment.

“They will remember this when they go to the polls,” Crump said. “That we have a state attorney who did not honor her oath.”

Crump told us he and Sandy have more that makes them different than makes them the same, and it’s not their skin color alone. He told us they were raised differently, have different political beliefs and different opinions on stand your ground laws.

But both men told us they have the most important thing in common: They believe in justice and keeping innocent children alive.

“It doesn’t matter about the color of your skin,” Crump said. “Nobody wants to bury their children.”

With no legal charges filed and nothing to show for five years of fighting, Sandy Modell admits his battle has been an uphill climb, but giving up isn’t even a thought.

“I owe it to my wife and son to never ever drop this, to never ever stop it, and I won’t,” Sandy said. “It’s just that simple.”

Author: Sydney Persing and Peter Fleischer/ WINK News
Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know.