Judge Joseph Will was not impressed with the way the Holly Hill Police Department handled the arrest of former Daytona Beach Officer Janet Hawkins. You be the judge!
Judge refused to drop charge even though information about arresting officer had been withheld
BY JAMES HARPER
Judge Joseph Will says he was shocked by the behavior of the Holly Hill Police Department in the handling of the arrest of a former Daytona Beach police officer. However, he refused to dismiss charges against Janet Hawkins, sentencing her to 12 months’ probation for resisting arrest without violence. The sentence was for an encounter Hawkins had with two officers of the Holly Hill police force two years ago.
Will acknowledged that the Holly Hill Police Department did not turn information over to the State Attorney’s office that might have resulted in a different verdict from the jury that found Hawkins guilty.
Hawkins’ attorney Gayle Graziano, a former Volusia County circuit judge, filed a motion on Aug. 19 prior to sentencing for dismissal of the verdict, citing a Brady violation.
Hawkins, 47, of Ormond Beach was arrested by the two Holly Hill officers on Sept. 23, 2009, after she was accused of running a stop sign at high speed. She also is accused of fighting with and injuring the officers.
A Brady motion is a defendant’s request for evidence concerning a material witness, which is favorable to the defense and to which the defense may be entitled. Favorable evidence includes not only evidence that tends to exculpate the accused, but also evidence that may impeach the credibility of a government witness.
A Brady violation occurs where the failure to disclose evidence to the defense deprives the defendant of a fair trial.
Will agreed that Graziano was able to prove that evidence was withheld from the State Attorney’s office about arresting officer Romel Scalf.
Arresting officer fired
Graziano found the information on her own about Scalf’s illegal use of a Taser and other information about him while he was a police officer with Holly Hill.
“What we have is Romel Scalf. Look at his history. Thought he was God. When he approaches you, you better follow his order. … You better do what he says or else. Who does he target? They are Black people. He doesn’t do this with White people,” said Graziano about the officer who was fired by the Holly Hill Police Department (HHPD) soon after the arrest of Hawkins because of his actions while with the force.
Graziano told the judge that the “the prosecutor had the obligation to seek justice,’’ stating that the information should have been presented to the defense. “Government held back. Government did not provide us with all information.’’
The judge said the HHPD not providing the information “has nothing to do with the State Attorney’s office. The State Attorney did nothing wrong; the City of Holly Hill did.”
Matter of race?
Graziano later exclusively told the Times that she considered race a factor.
“You know how racist this community is. If she had been a White male, no charges would have been filed.”
However, the judge said during the sentencing: “I think the jury was fairly forgiving. If there is a racial overtone, I didn’t know anything about it,’’ adding that the jury is not asked to consider racial overtones.
“Two persons (who) did not mesh well ran into each other. I think attitudes led to the problem. We have a she-bear and a bully,” elaborated Will, referring to Hawkins and Scalf.
Hawkins said she never resisted arrest.
She was later fired for violating Daytona Beach police policies. Hawkins had been responding to a call from her son, Brandall Hawkins, who had been arrested on a charge of trespassing at an apartment complex. He later was found not guilty by a jury.
Went looking for son
Hawkins, a 15-year veteran of the Daytona Beach police, was off duty while on the way to the Holly Point Apartments parking lot on 15th Street, looking for her 25-year-old son.
“As a mother, I had a right to go to the police station. I didn’t understand. When this is over, I have to look at my son and say there is justice. I was victimized by him (Scalf). I can’t be bitter. My family has suffered enough. How did I get to where I was to where I am? I still believe there is justice.”
Scalf’s side of the story
Scalf, in his arrest report, described how he thought Hawkins was a danger behind the wheel. When she jumped back in her sport utility vehicle after being stopped, Scalf said he tried to place Hawkins under arrest but she resisted.
He and another officer, Walter Melton, used Tasers on Hawkins during her arrest.
Last April, an all-White jury found Hawkins guilty of resisting arrest without violence. Her sentencing was delayed until last week because of a death in Graziano’s family.
“This woman (Hawkins) has been punished enough. She was fired. She was terminated. Why wasn’t she suspended? She has fought racism and sexism. She has been punished more than anybody else. If you’re female, you have to be devastated,” said Graziano.
Attorney: Client probably overreacted
Graziano said she did not understand how the jury could find Hawkins guilty of resisting arrest without violence.
“The officer asked her to remove her vehicle. She was not obstructing traffic; the police officers’ vehicles were obstructing traffic. She parked in a place that was unobstructed. Jury misapplied the law if they thought she did,” said Graziano, who filed an appeal to overturn the verdict.
While doing so, Graziano also withdrew as Hawkins’ attorney because of what she said was an understanding with the former office when she took on the case.
Graziano admitted Hawkins could have probably behaved differently when she was stopped by the police.
“She is like a lot of mothers. She overreacted. When her son is in danger, she goes with vengeance. She was trying to get to the police station. She was familiar with how law enforcement treats young Black men,” added Graziano.