The attorney for Anthony Borges, one of the survivors who was shot during the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, claims that if it wasn’t for an agreement made between the school, local prosecutors, and the public defender’s office, the tragedy may have been prevented. Motion filed by his attorney on Tuesday claims that this information would be relevant during Nikolas Cruz‘s criminal trial, and that both sides should recuse themselves from the case due to conflicts of interest.
The motions cite a document titled “Collaborative Agreement on School Discipline,” which outlines an approach to student misbehavior that would keep the criminal justice system out of the picture for certain minor offenses. The agreement was signed by the Broward County School Board, the Office of the State Attorney, the Law Office of the Public Defender, the local Sheriff, the Chief Judge of the local district, and many other organizations and agencies. It says that for certain misdemeanors,
The reasoning given in the agreement is that going through the criminal justice system “may decrease a student’s change of graduation, entering higher education, joining the military, and getting a job.” It also notes that minority students “are disproportionately impacted by school-based arrests for the same behavior as their peers.”
In the event that a student commits one of the listed crimes, the Agreement calls for the school’s principal to handle disciplinary intervention by consulting a Code of Student Conduct and Discipline Matrix. Repeated offenses would call for increased discipline, but it’s not until a fourth offense that a student would be “referred for consultation with law enforcement,” unless the Matrix calls for law enforcement to be brought in sooner. The agreement doesn’t specify under which circumstances that would take place. It does note that even if law enforcement is consulted, that still doesn’t mean the student will necessarily be arrested.
The listed offenses are:
- Disrupting or interfering with a school function
- Affray (fighting in a public place and disturbing the peace)
- Theft of less than $300
- Vandalism of less than $1,000
- Disorderly conduct
- Criminal mischief
- Alcohol-related incidents
- Possession of cannabis (depending on the circumstances)
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Non-violent obstruction of justice
The agreement cited in the motions is dated Oct. 5, 2016. The motions do not specify any particular incident involving Cruz that would have fallen under the agreement or any similar past agreement that may have existed. It simply claims that this is evidence that both the prosecution and the public defender’s office contributed to an environment that would have allowed “certain acts to go unchecked or unaddressed,” as well as a “lack of any attempts at addressing [Cruz’s] aggressive behavior before the shooting.”
It has been reported that Cruz exhibited numerous signs of troubling behavior in the past that led classmates to believe that he could be capable of a violent attack. Local authorities have been criticized for not responding to these signs effectively enough.
Borges’ attorney, Alex Arreaza, claims that information regarding this agreement could be significant during Cruz’s trial, and he’s concerned that because both offices were part of the agreement, there are conflicts of interest that could prevent it being properly discussed at the trial.
Arreaza states that he’s requesting both offices to recuse themselves out of concern that after the trial is over, the decision could be reversed, necessitating a second trial. He says that the Borges family is “going through an enormous amount of suffering and do not want to go through this traumatic experience again.”
Should either side recuse themselves from the case, outside attorneys would have to be brought in.
The State Attorney’s Office told Law&Crime that they are not commenting, as this is still a pending case. The public defender’s office has yet to respond to a request for comment.
Cruz is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday afternoon.
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