Mother of Teen Defendant Sentenced for Tampering with Evidence

June 9, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

A previous blog post covered the details of a 14-year-old defendant, Aiden Fucci, who was charged as an adult with first-degree murder. The charges arose after law enforcement discovered the gruesome death of a 13-year-old girl named Tristyn Bailey. Fucci allegedly stabbed the young girl 114 times.

Fucci’s mother, Crystal Lane Smith, was also charged in connection with the murder. Specifically, she was accused of tampering with evidence. Fucci’s mother has since returned to the courtroom to face a sentencing decision.

This page will provide the case details, along with sentencing updates and relative information on tampering with evidence in Florida.

Sentencing Details

Aiden Fucci plead guilty to the charges against him during a hearing in February 2023 . On March 24, 2023, Circuit Judge R. Lee Smith sentenced Fucci to life in prison. Judge Smith announced there were several factors that went into his sentencing decision.

The factors included Fucci’s age and the “heightened level” of premeditation. This included Fucci’s past statements to his friend and girlfriend indicating he planned to kill someone, giving the weapon (a knife) a nickname, and attempting to conceal evidence. The judge also commented on the defendant’s “average level of maturity” which proved he understood his actions and their consequences.

The following is a statement given by Judge Smith following the sentencing:

“This was not done out of greed, it was not done in retaliation, retribution, or revenge, it was not a crime of passion, it was not a crime that was committed because he felt rejected by her. It was not done in a fit of uncontrollable anger. There was no reason. There was no purpose. It was done for no other reason than to satisfy he this defendant’s internal desire to feel what it was like to kill someone.”

Fucci’s Mother Charged

On June 5, 2021, Fucci’s mother, Crystal Lane Smith, 35, surrendered to St. Johns County police after receiving a warrant for her arrest. Smith was charged with tampering with evidence in relation to her son’s case.

According to a news report, Smith was accused of scrubbing a pair of blue jeans Fucci allegedly wore on the day he murdered the young 13-year old girl. A security surveillance camera recorded Smith washing the jeans in a bathroom sink. Police investigation revealed that both the jeans and the sink drain tested positive for traces of blood.

“Crystal Smith will be held responsible for her role in this case and justice will be served for Tristyn Bailey and her family,” said St. John’s County Sheriff Robert Hardwick.

Smith was released on a $25,000 bail after being booked into the jail. In May 2023, Smith was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five years of probation after she plead no contest to the charge of tampering with evidence.

When a defendant pleads no contest, they are neither admitting guilt nor contesting the charges against them. Instead, they are choosing to not contest the charges and accept the consequences sentenced by the judge.

“What the defendant did was not protecting her child—she was assisting him in avoiding responsibility for an extraordinary vicious and merciless crime,” said State Attorney R.J. Larizza.

During the court hearing, Smith remained silent. However, her defense attorney, Matt Kachergus, explained that she was unaware why her son’s jeans were bloody at the time she was washing them.

“She was a frantic mother trying to determine what was going on with her son,” Kachergus said. He also explained that Smith did not find out about what had happened until after she had washed the jeans.

During victim impact statements, Tristyn’s mother, Stacey Bailey, explained that Mother’s Day 2021 “will haunt me for the rest of my life.” When addressing Smith, Baileysaid: “I’ve tried to put myself in your shoes on that fateful day a thousand times, but I can’t.”

What is Tampering with Evidence?

When a person is accused of tampering with evidence, it refers to the act of altering, modifying, concealing, or destroying physical or digital evidence that is relevant to an ongoing investigation or legal proceeding.

Reasons that people attempt to commit tampering with evidence can be to mislead investigators or manipulate the evidence in a case to protect themselves or someone else from legal consequences. Tampering with evidence can include any of the following:

  • Falsifying documents
  • Manipulating photographs or video
  • Altering physical objects
  • Deleting or altering electronic files
  • Hiding or destroying evidence

Tampering with evidence can result in the suppression of evidence, dismissal of charges, or even the reversal of convictions in some cases. The act of tampering with evidence undermines the integrity of the justice system, which is why it is considered a criminal offense in Florida.

Charges for Tampering with Evidence in Florida

Florida Statute Section 918.13 states that it is unlawful for any person to commit any of the following when they know that a criminal trial, proceeding, or investigation by prosecuting authority, law enforcement agency, grand jury, or legislative committee of this state is pending or about to be instituted:

  • Alter;
  • Destroy;
  • Conceal;
  • Remove any record;
  • Document; or
  • Other item with the purpose of impairing its availability in such investigation or proceeding.

Any person who violates the above section during a criminal proceeding or trial can be charged with a third-degree felony. A third-degree felony has the penalties of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

If the person is accused of any of the following making, presenting, or using any record, document, or other item, knowing it to be false or misleading during an investigation or trial that relates to a capital felony can be charged with a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony has the penalties of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Tampering with evidence is a serious offense, especially when it affects the progression of another criminal proceeding or investigation. If convicted, you could face years in prison in addition to paying expensive fines. If you or someone you know is being accused of tampering with evidence, contact a skilled Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options for defense.

Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience working with those across Florida who have been wrongfully accused of a criminal offense. We vow to stand by your side and fight aggressively for your freedom. To receive a free consultation regarding your case, call us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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