Florida Senate - 2012 (Corrected Copy)(NP) SB 68 By Senator Siplin 30-00176-12 201268__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act for the relief of Lawrence Femminella by the 3 Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office; providing for an 4 appropriation to compensate Lawrence Femminella for 5 loss of consortium, false arrest, and the negligent 6 training and hiring of deputy sheriffs by the Palm 7 Beach County Sheriff’s Office; providing a limitation 8 on the payment of fees and costs; providing an 9 effective date. 10 11 WHEREAS, Lawrence Femminella was employed by the Palm Beach 12 County Sheriff’s Office as a correctional officer and deputy 13 sheriff and resided in Palm Beach County, and 14 WHEREAS, in March 2003, Willoughby Farr was confined to the 15 Palm Beach County jail awaiting sentencing on various felony 16 charges for which he was facing a long prison term. In an effort 17 to avoid a lengthy prison term and to garner favors from law 18 enforcement officers, Farr concocted a story in which he claimed 19 that several correctional officers were smuggling drugs into the 20 Palm Beach County jail, and 21 WHEREAS, to further his scheme, Farr enrolled the 22 assistance of Danny Negrych, who was a former correctional 23 officer from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. Together 24 Farr and Negrych fabricated a story in which Negrych claimed to 25 be a member of a ring of correctional officers who regularly 26 smuggled narcotic drugs into the jail. Farr then contacted the 27 Organized Crime Bureau of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office 28 and told his fabricated story, and 29 WHEREAS, Detective Jeffrey Clarke and Sergeant Jones, who 30 were assigned to investigate Farr’s drug-smuggling allegations, 31 used Farr as a confidential informant. Deputy Clarke did not 32 have any prior training in investigating narcotics cases even 33 though he was designated as the lead detective in the 34 investigation, and 35 WHEREAS, Farr and the detectives agreed that if Farr 36 provided evidence of the drug-smuggling activities involving the 37 correctional officers, the detectives would testify at Farr’s 38 sentencing in order to get Farr a more lenient sentence, and 39 WHEREAS, on three separate occasions Negrych and Farr 40 arranged for cocaine and other illicit drugs to be delivered to 41 the jail, but Lawrence Femminella was not involved in any of the 42 deliveries, and 43 WHEREAS, in late June 2003, Farr was released on bond with 44 the help of the detectives. The purpose of the release was to 45 facilitate the criminal investigation regarding the alleged 46 drug-smuggling activities that involved certain correctional 47 officers, and 48 WHEREAS, after his release, Farr claimed he could meet with 49 Lawrence Femminella to discuss drugs. Farr had Negrych contact 50 Femminella to arrange a meeting. The purpose of the meeting, as 51 stated by Negrych to Femminella, was to interest Lawrence 52 Femminella in starting a landscaping business. A meeting was 53 arranged for July 8, 2003, at a local restaurant, and 54 WHEREAS, Lawrence Femminella appeared at the scheduled 55 meeting expecting to meet Negrych, who failed to appear. 56 Instead, Farr met with Femminella claiming that Negrych was 57 unable to attend. The meeting was monitored and recorded by the 58 Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and there were no 59 discussions about narcotics at the meeting. Femminella and 60 Negrych discussed only the landscaping business, and 61 WHEREAS, in late July 2003, Farr was arrested again for 62 violating the terms of his bond. After his arrest, Farr 63 continued his role as an informant for the Palm Beach County 64 Sheriff’s Office and placed telephone calls to Negrych regarding 65 the delivery of narcotics into the jail, and 66 WHEREAS, during this period Farr also placed several calls 67 to Lawrence Femminella’s cellular telephone and on each occasion 68 left a message asking Lawrence Femminella to return the call. In 69 response to Farr’s several messages, Lawrence Femminella 70 returned the call on a single occasion and left a message for 71 Farr to quit contacting him. Afterward, Femminella changed his 72 cellular telephone number in order to avoid Farr’s calls, and 73 WHEREAS, in early September 2003, Farr also made several 74 telephone calls to a woman who identified herself as Lawrence 75 Femminella’s wife, Gayle, and they discussed the smuggling of 76 drugs into the jail. It was these telephone calls that led to 77 the arrest of Gayle Femminella, along with her husband Lawrence 78 Femminella. It was later determined that the woman was not Gayle 79 Femminella, but an imposter hired by Farr and Negrych to further 80 their scheme, and 81 WHEREAS, during the telephone call between Farr and the 82 female impersonator posing as Gayle Femminella, the two would 83 discuss having Lawrence Femminella deliver drugs to Farr in 84 jail. The female impersonator then requested the moneys for the 85 drugs to be delivered to the Femminella’s home and for 86 Femminella to deliver the narcotics to Farr, and 87 WHEREAS, on September 10, 2003, two undercover agents 88 wearing recording devices attempted to deliver moneys to the 89 Femminella’s home. Gayle Femminella answered the door and the 90 agents told Mrs. Femminella that they were delivering money for 91 Farr. Not only did Gayle Femminella refuse to accept the money, 92 she was described by police as being confused as to why the 93 police were at her house. She immediately called her husband who 94 was at work at the jail and reported the incident to him. The 95 agents’ encounter with Gayle Femminella was recorded by 96 detectives from the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. The 97 detectives realized that the voice of Gayle Femminella was 98 completely different from the voice recording of the female 99 impersonator, and 100 WHEREAS, alarmed by the unusual events, including the 101 messages from Farr, the visit to his home by unknown persons 102 offering money from Farr, and the July 8th meeting with Farr, 103 Lawrence Femminella immediately wrote a letter to his supervisor 104 at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office which explained the 105 events involving the meeting on July 8, 2003, the unsolicited 106 phone calls, and the visits to his home with the offer of money, 107 and 108 WHEREAS, on the evening of September 11, 2003, Lawrence 109 Femminella and his wife Gayle Femminella were arrested at their 110 home in the presence of their children, taken in handcuffs to 111 jail, and held in a jail cell at the Palm Beach County jail 112 where they were interviewed. When the detectives confronted 113 Gayle Femminella about tape recordings that appeared to 114 incriminate her, Mrs. Femminella asked to hear the tapes. When 115 the detectives played the tapes, it became readily apparent that 116 the female’s voice on the tape was not the voice of Gayle 117 Femminella, and 118 WHEREAS, on September 12, 2003, the detectives interviewed 119 Farr and confronted him with the fabricated evidence against 120 Gayle Femminella. According to the detectives, Farr admitted 121 that he had fabricated much of the evidence in order to get a 122 more lenient sentence, and 123 WHEREAS, Deputy Clarke commenced the criminal investigation 124 of Farr’s allegations of the smuggling of illicit drugs into the 125 Palm Beach County jail in May of 2003, which terminated in 126 November 2004. At the conclusion of the investigation, the 127 Femminellas were completely exonerated and received a personal 128 apology from the Sheriff, and 129 WHEREAS, at the conclusion of the criminal investigation, 130 the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office conducted an internal 131 affairs investigation. The internal affairs investigation 132 concluded that Deputy Clarke was guilty of neglect of duty and 133 that the accusations against the Femminellas were totally 134 unfounded and without merit, and 135 WHEREAS, on May 11, 2005, Lawrence Femminella filed an 136 Amended Complaint against the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office 137 for false arrest, negligent training and hiring of its deputies, 138 and loss of consortium, and 139 WHEREAS, the case of Lawrence Femminella was tried before a 140 jury, and on February 6, 2006, the jury returned a verdict in 141 favor of Lawrence Femminella. A final judgment in favor of 142 Lawrence Femminella in the sum of $816,200 was entered against 143 the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office on February 8, 2006, and 144 WHEREAS, Lawrence Femminella has been paid $100,000 by the 145 Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and he seeks satisfaction in 146 the amount of $716,200, the balance of the final judgment, NOW, 147 THEREFORE, 148 149 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 150 151 Section 1. The facts stated in the preamble to this act are 152 found and declared to be true. 153 Section 2. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is 154 authorized and directed to appropriate from funds of the county 155 not otherwise appropriated and to draw a warrant in the sum of 156 $716,200, payable to Lawrence Femminella, as compensation for 157 loss of consortium, false arrest, and the negligent training and 158 hiring of deputy sheriffs by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s 159 Office. 160 Section 3. The amount paid by the Palm Beach County 161 Sheriff’s Office and the amount awarded under this act are 162 intended to provide the sole compensation for all present and 163 future claims arising out of the factual situation described in 164 this act regarding Lawrence Femminella. The total amount paid 165 for attorney’s fees, lobbying fees, costs, and other similar 166 expenses relating to this claim may not exceed 25 percent of the 167 amount awarded under this act. 168 Section 4. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.