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PARKLAND, Fla. — Ex-Deputy Scot Peterson voluntarily appeared for a hearing in Broward County in a bid to clear his name with Internal Affairs on Tuesday. But when it was over, he was arrested.
“I believe it was orchestrated,” Peterson’s attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, said of his client’s arrest.
After appearing in court alongside a solemn-looking Peterson on Thursday, DiRuzzo looked visibly annoyed while describing to reporters the circumstances of the arrest.
“All they had to do was call me and say, ‘we are going to file charges,’ and I would have been more than happy to surrender him,” he said. “All of this could have been taken care of ahead of time and he could have avoided having spent a day and a half in jail.”
He and his client were aware of the hearing at the Sheriff’s Office for more than a week, but not the charges. DiRuzzo called the surprising nature of Peterson’s arrest — instead of allowing him to self-surrender — “entirely unfair and uncalled for and unprofessional.” Peterson’s controversial actions during the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School played a role in his arrest.
Former Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy Scot Peterson and his defense attorney Joseph DiRuzzo are shown during a hearing at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Wednesday, June 5, 2019.
© Amy Beth Bennett/Sun Sentinel/TNS
DiRuzzo said normal circumstances would allow for an opportunity for the defense counsel and prosecution to speak about the nature of the charges.
“That consideration never happened and that consideration should have happened,” DiRuzzo said. “If they had told me that they were going to use the child-neglect statute, I would have done my research and argued that the child-neglect statute can’t be used against my client.”
He paused to scoff.
“But, of course, they didn’t want to hear that. All they wanted to do was take my client into custody.”
Responding to DiRuzzo’s allegations, the Broward State Attorney’s Office issued a statement Thursday afternoon that detailed the consideration taken into account for the arrest.
Prosecutors said that because of safety and security concerns for defendants and law enforcement, charges such as the ones against Peterson are filed quietly because of the potential for suspects to flee, harm themselves or harm others.
In some instances, prosecutors may discuss charges with a defense lawyer. But “this only happens if a suspect is offering to enter into a plea agreement,” the prosecutor’s office said.
After Judge Andrew Siegel signed the initial warrant for Peterson’s arrest on Monday afternoon, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents and the state prosecutor were told the paperwork had to be filed with the warrant office at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters.
“It is FDLE policy to notify the sheriff if agents are entering his buildings,” the statement read.
When the sheriff was contacted, he informed officers that Peterson was scheduled to appear for a hearing Tuesday. And that happened to be a coincidence: “To be clear, the State Attorney’s Office and FDLE were unaware that Peterson was expected to be in Broward County until after the warrant was signed,” the statement read.
Officers were not sure whether Peterson would appear in person but decided the safest option would be to intercept him at the sheriff’s headquarters if he did show up.
After his appearance in front of Internal Affairs was over, authorities were standing by to arrest Peterson.
“If Peterson had not shown up, our prosecutors planned to contact his attorney and discuss if it was safer to arrest him at his out-of-state home or arrange for him to surrender,” the statement said.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office didn’t respond to a request for comment Thursday.
©2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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