Hypothetically speaking, if a police officer was a known liar and had several incidents demonstrating his questionable ethics, you would think any right-minded prosecutor wouldn’t want him as a key witness testifying in criminal trials. Well, in the case of one Florida cop, you’d be wrong. On the contrary, prosecutors are protecting him.
According to Radley Balko’s blog over at the Huffington Post, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Deputy Dominic Fornal had one of several questionable run-ins last May. He was allegedly following a vehicle at 35 mph when he smelled marijuana coming from it. He stopped the car based on this amazing feat of his sense of smell.
He conducted not one but four complete searches of the car, looking for drugs. He even ripped out the upholstery, finding nothing. Then, about 90 minutes into the confrontation, he shut off the microphone clipped to his uniform. Only then did an accompanying deputy find a marijuana cigarette. The driver was then arrested for DUI despite having a blood alcohol level that was half the legal limit.
In this case, the charges were eventually dropped and Fornal continued on his job, with no discipline. He did have his camera removed from his patrol dash, however, though we are unsure how this could be construed as punishment.
Then, just last month, Fornal allegedly dumped a bottle of liquor into a woman’s purse and all over the floorboards of her van. He also described one of his coworkers as a dumbass. These and other allegations against him pushed the Deputy to resign rather than answer to any internal affairs investigation.
As Balko points out, Fornal was given the opportunity to resign before even being interviewed about some of the allegations. He was allowed to walk away. This means he will likely be eligible for hire at other departments within the state.
Coworkers unabashedly said he was a dishonest cop. This paired with his questionable behavior should have steered the prosecutor to cut his involvement with any cases, dismissing charges where he was the key witness. Well, the local prosecutor didn’t. Instead, they have filed motions attempting to protect Fornal by preventing defense attorneys from questioning his reliability or bringing up the allegations of his past.
Too often, officers of the law are treated as if they are above the law, but that is not how the system is supposed to work.