December 18, 2018
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       Florida Senate - 2010                              (NP)    SB 62
       
       
       
       By Senator Deutch
       
       
       
       
       30-00208-10                                             201062__
    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 Sherriff’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
   15  the 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 drug
   46  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 discussions
   59  about narcotics at the meeting. Femminella and Negrych discussed
   60  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  incriminated 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, and 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. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is authorized
  154  and directed to appropriate from funds of the county not
  155  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.

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