Leave ’emotional evidence’ out of suspended Sheriff Scott Israel’s trial to restore job, his attorney says

The attorney for suspended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel asked the state Tuesday to limit “emotional evidence” at the upcoming trial where he’ll seek to win back his job following last month’s suspension by Gov. Ron DeSantis over the sheriff’s handling of the mass shooting in Parkland.

At a 20-minute procedural hearing at the Florida Capitol, attorney Benedict (Ben) Kuehne said: “I’m hopeful that this proceeding will focus on the allegations and the facts as opposed to the community interest in this matter.”

Kuehne made the request to J. Dudley Goodlette, a former Republican state House member from Naples who was appointed by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, to serve as a special master or judge in Israel’s case.

Goodlette, 70, a real estate and zoning lawyer, served in the House from 1998 to 2006 and has been a fixture in Collier County politics for decades.

In response to Kuehne’s request, DeSantis’ attorney, Nick Primrose, said that by law, a county sheriff is the “conservator of the peace,” so that “there may be some witnesses or evidence that does have an emotional aspect to it, but does go directly to his duty as elected sheriff.”

Goodlette agreed with DeSantis’ attorney, and said later that he would like as much testimony as possible in the upcoming trial to be from recorded depositions, not in person.

DeSantis, a Republican, suspended Israel, a Democrat, on Jan. 11, accusing the elected sheriff of incompetence in the agency’s response to the mass shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, that killed 17 people and wounded 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

“Sheriff Israel has repeatedly failed and demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership. He failed to protect Floridians and visitors during the tragic Fort Lauderdale International Airport shooting in 2017. He failed in his duties to keep our families and children safe during the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018,” DeSantis said in a statement on Tuesday. “These incidents demonstrate Sheriff’s Israel’s repeated incompetence and neglect of duty. The families of the victims deserve accountability. It is my job as Governor to ensure that the safety of our local communities, especially the safety of our children, is paramount. Government officials must be held accountable for their actions, and/or inactions. For these reasons, I suspended Sheriff Israel from office.”