Note: This is a personal story that I have kept private for many years. But with the current election, I feel that this story about Lawson Lamar and his office needs to be told. It helps me to tell you about the true Lawson Lamar as well as helping me release something I have kept bottled up for nearly 21 years.
For years, Central Florida State’s Attorney Lawson Lamar has destroyed the lives of many innocent people. In an attempt to put a few “notches on his belt”, many people have been the victim of Lawson Lamar’s relentless and ruthless tactics to make himself look good. Instead of trying to make a safer community, he has done more to hurt people in Orlando and Central Florida than any other person.
Over the last 20 years, Lamar won election after election without any serious challenge. Nobody questioned his tactics. Nobody took on Lamar. Jokingly, they probably thought they would be arrested for taking him on. But when Jeff Ashton decided to run against Lamar for State’s Attorney, he exposed Lamar’s ruthless record of trying to seek convictions, even if the cases didn’t warrant a trial. During his time as State’s Attorney, there have been a lot of victims of crime. But there have also been a lot of victims of Lawson Lamar as well.
I am one of those victims.
In December of 1991, just 3 months after my 18th birthday, I was at the Taco Bell in MetroWest where I worked to pick up a paycheck. While I was there, there were a group of three men around my age that constantly harassed me. The reason why they were constantly threatening me was because the girlfriend of one of them, David Eldert, liked me. This didn’t make David and his friend, Daniel Carrier, happy with me. I only talked to his girlfriend twice. Even so, Eldert continued to harass me whenever he saw me. He even went as far as coming into the Taco Bell that I worked at and causing trouble.
After picking up my check on this day, Eldert and Carrier continued to harass me as I was leaving the establishment. As they were verbally harassing me, I just told them to “shut up” or something. This resulted in them jumping out of their seats (which I can remember clearly to this date), and chasing me to my car. I quickly got into my car and backed up. As I put my car in drive, both Eldert and Carrier jumped in from of my car and it struck them, with both of them falling down. I only moved my car about 2-3 feet going about 2-5 MPH at the most (walking speed).
After I hit them, I put my car in park because I didn’t mean to hit them. They then proceeded to come to my driver’s side window, which was rolled down, and beat me. I was getting punched by the two of them left and right and couldn’t stop it. I was at the point where I was about to pass out. Then the manager of the Taco Bell came out and stopped it. I drove off and went home.
A few hours later, I get a knock on the door from the Orange County Police Department. The officer said that Eldert and Carrier filed charges against me. He told me to write a statement, which I did. The officer also said it was his decision to determine if I needed to be brought to jail or not. He said that he didn’t think so because he didn’t see anything serious. In fact, he said that it looked like I got the worse of the deal, having two black eyes and cuts on my face, while the others seemed unharmed. So, from that point, I thought the issue was over. If the officer didn’t see a reason to pursue it further, why would anyone push it? So, instead of staying in Orlando, I decided to go to Chicago with my grandfather, who was visiting, and spend a month.
I returned to Florida around January 10th or so. When I returned, I got a call from a fellow employee at Taco Bell. He told me that Eldert was murdered on January 1st at Pleasure Island. I was shocked. I got the Orlando Sentinels from those days and it explained what happened. According to the Sentinel, another person that Eldert’s girlfriend approached, Christopher Michael Fehn (who I didn’t know or never met), was harassed by Eldert. Instead of doing what I did, which was ignoring the girlfriend and taking a trip to Chicago after the incident I had with Eldert, Fehn decided to kill Eldert.
According to the Sentinel: “Fehn told Orange County sheriff’s investigators he shot Elbert after being threatened and attacked by him, records show. Investigators said Fehn told them the fight was over Fehn’s girlfriend, who used to date Elbert.”
So, as we can see, Eldert had a history of violence, which many of us already knew. Because he was now gone and the case already starting against Fehn, I thought the charges against me would be dropped and finished.
I was wrong.
About a week later, I was told that the charges were going to be filed against me by Daniel Carrier for “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon”. I was picked up by the police and taken to the 33rd Street Jail, where I spent the afternoon before I was bailed out. My attorney, Randy Freeman, was a family friend and bankruptcy attorney. He wasn’t skilled with criminal law. In addition, I was convinced not to go with a public defender because they would just try to “make a deal”.
Later in the year, while I was working for Buddy Dyer in his first state senate run, I was told my Freeman that a deal had been made. The deal was that I was to plead no contest, that adjudication was to be withheld, that time was served with 1 day in jail (which was the day they arrested me), and that I was put on probation until I paid $317 in medical bills and attended a program called “Operation Turnaround”. After that was complete, I was told by Freeman that my file would be expunged. He convinced me that this was better than actually going through trial and winning because nothing would show up whatsoever. So I agreed.
Therefore, Lawson Lamar won. He got another person punished. Even though that person was more the victim than a criminal perpetrator, Lamar got what he wanted. His ruthlessness and disregard for finding the truth won.
I wish I could tell you this is where the story ends. But it is only the beginning.
In 1996, I was on my way to Gainesville to do some canvassing for Allen Boyd. Before I left home, I decided to stop by Longwood for some reason or another. While I was there, I was pulled over for an expired tag. I had already paid it, but forgot to put on the sticker, which I showed the officer. But the officer told me that there was a warrant for my arrest for violation of probation. At this time, I had already paid the $317 as well as completed the Operation Turnaround. After that was complete, Freeman told me that everything had been settled. But I sadly found out that it hadn’t.
I was first placed in the Seminole County jail and transferred to the Orange County jail a few days later. There was no bail set because the judge that was doing the case said that he didn’t do bail for VOP offenses. I was in jail for 17 days. During that time, Freeman did nothing, so I decided to get a highly respected Orlando attorney for this case. He was able to have all charges dropped. But still, 17 days of my life was gone. I had to watch Bill Clinton get reelected on Election Day 1996 from a jail cell.
While in jail for 17 days, I met others that were in there for petty reasons. One guy said he was in there for unpaid parking tickets. Of course, I thought he was full of it. Then he pulled out his paperwork, and sure enough there was a warrant out for his arrest because of unpaid parking tickets. I was, honestly, speechless on that one!
After I was released from the Orange County jail, I met with my new attorney and I found out some new information. I found out that the statements and most of the paperwork I field with the police on that December day was not in the case file. I also found out that my probation was never terminated, even though it should have been. Another thing I found was that my record wasn’t expunged, which I thought Freeman had already done as well. Unfortunately, I learned rather harshly that my case would never be expunged and that it would continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.
In 1990, the Florida Statues stated that the offense that I had been arrested for was an expugnable offense. But in 1991, the law had changed. Now “aggravated assault with a deadly weapon” was NOT an expugnable offense. And even though the words “stand silent re: expungement” is on my plea agreement, I was not able to get my record expunged. I had spoken to attorneys after this to see if there was anything that can be done. But since it doesn’t specifically say that the case would be expunged, they have refused to take it. What I have always said is “why would it even say the word “expungement” on the plea agreement if it wasn’t discussed? It would be very odd to have it up there if it wasn’t discussed.” This didn’t matter.
Why did this happen? Who knows. Did Lawson Lamar, Judge Alice Blackwell White, the prosecutor and my attorney have an absolute lack of knowledge regarding the change in the law, thus none of them should even hold a law license? Maybe.
Or was it that Lawson Lamar’s prosecutor (which I can’t think of her name at this time, but will be looking it up later to put in this post to update it) knew that the law had changed, but took advantage of a bankruptcy attorney that was helping a friend by lying about what would be in a plea agreement?
Either way, Lawson Lamar and his office was either extremely uneducated on the issues regarding expungement of this offense or they just didn’t care what the law said and lied to get what they wanted.
Since this case, which is now 21 years old, many things have happened. Daniel Carrier robbed a 15-year old Argentinean girl on International Drive in 1995. He was also arrested a number of times on drug charges. A few years later, he would die as well. Therefore, when I was in jail for violation of probation, the person that the case was about wasn’t even alive anymore.
As for me, I had big plans for my life. When I was young, I had plans on being a US Senator. Even when I was 15-years old, I spent hours on a game called “President Elect” on my Commodore 64, where I would run for President, plan my own campaign strategy and study my own issues. As a youngster, I would actually watch C-SPAN and read books about John F. Kennedy, my boyhood hero. Even though I was into playing hockey three times a week, I always had more than enough time to do my political stuff. My life goal was to run for State House in 1994, be a State Senator in 2000 and, by now, be a Member of Congress.
But all of those dreams ended in January of 1992 when Lawson Lamar decided that adding another “notch in his belt” by prosecuting a chase that resulted in 1 day in jail and $317 in medical bills was more important than seeking justice and the truth. Even then, the lies or lack of education regarding expungement is just as bad as not seeking justice.
Since 1992, I have had walls put up everywhere I go. I was not able to attend universities in Florida because they would deny me admission because I had been on probation. I was actually rejected by Florida Atlantic University, so I didn’t even try for UCF, UF or FSU. Instead, I had to go to University of Utah to seek my degree. With the cost of out-of-state tuition doubling at Utah during my time there, I was unable to finish. I was eventually able to go to Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and try to finish, but decided to come down to Florida and work on some campaigns this fall instead. After the elections, I plan on finishing at SIUE, where I am on track to graduate Summa Cum Laude.
On the job front it wasn’t much easier. Any place that asked on their application if I had pled no contest or been placed on probation I didn’t answer. Other places that didn’t ask that, but then did a background check were also places that I couldn’t get a job. Even seeking an apartment to live in becomes a challenge. Having low-paying jobs and living with family from time to time has been the only way to survive, even though I have a 4.0 GPA at SIUE as well as being awarded the Jeremiah Houk Strive for Excellence Award by SIUE’s political science faculty in 2012. Finding a job, seeking living accommodations as well as completing an education becomes an uphill challenge.
As far as my “run ins with the law” after this case, I have a few speeding tickets, ran a red light, passed on a double yellow line and parked in a handicapped spot in Montreal (which wasn’t clearly marked and the case was thrown out). Therefore, not much at all as you can see.
The lack of Lamar’s office knowing the law as well as their ruthlessness in getting “notches on their belts” has destroyed my life. By this time, I was expecting to do good things for Orlando. I was seeking to be an elected official and truly helping Central Florida. After the 1992 election when Buddy Dyer sent me a thank you card telling me that he was “looking forward to the day when we would both be in the legislature”, I knew that this wasn’t a commitment that I would able to fulfill.
Hopefully, I will be able to seek public office in the near future. I know this will come up in my election if I run and I am prepared for that. But when I see Republicans destroying the State of Florida, and knowing I can’t offer myself as a candidate, it really hurts inside. But there is a point that I will have to face this demon and fight for what is right.
Lawson Lamar destroyed my life purely for himself. I can only imagine how many other lives in Central Florida he has destroyed as well. I don’t know who I will vote for in the August primary…but I know who I am not voting for. It is time for Lawson Lamar to go, so he can’t hurt anyone else for his own pleasure.