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Posted Oct 5, 2007 by Aaron Knox
Updated Oct 5, 2007 at 07:56 PM
BATON ROUGE, La. — When the State Attorney’s Office dropped a burglary charge Friday against Florida safety Tony Joiner, the first questions I figured some of you — more specifically, the non-Florida fans — would ask were these:
Why did it take only 80 hours to determine whether Joiner should be charged when the same office needed 27 days to determine a charge against Florida tailback Brandon James after Gainesville police videotaped James buying marijuana from a police informant?
Why did it take 70 days to determine what charges offensive lineman Ronnie Wilson would face when Wilson admitted to police that he fired an AK-47 into the air to scare a man he’s punched and spat on earlier that morning?
When I asked questions similar to those Friday afternoon, State Attorney Bill Cervone graciously answered. It’s my fault.
Well, not mine specifically. But the interest from me and my media brethren, Cervone said, caused such a distraction that he decided to fast-track Joiner’s case.
“You guys in the media take up so much time bothering us — day and night — that if we resolved [Joiner’s case] faster, it’s better for my staff,” said Cervone, who added that he would have charged Joiner with a crime just as quickly had his office’s investigation revealed one had been committed.
I don’t necessarily disagree with Cervone, though I wonder if the calls might have died down had the case been thrown on the pile with the rest of Alachua County’s petty crimes. That said, Cervone’s office was dealing with some heavy-duty stuff while we were calling about Joiner’s adventure in the towing company impound lot.
This week, Cervone’s office had to to prosecute a murder case, a sexual assault case and three robbery cases and begin investigations into two police officer-involved shootings. Also, the man who killed a Gainesville police officer with his car while driving drunk in April pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter of a law enforcement officer.
“All that’s going on, and nobody’s calling me and my staff about [those cases] at 9 p.m.,” Cervone said. “It was all about Tony Joiner.”