Obstruction Conviction Overturned in Appeal’s Court in Dale Massad’s Case

July 22, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

Former Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad had his conviction of conspiracy to obstruct justice overturned on Friday by the 2nd District Court of Appeals. Massad had been accused of having a call with the new mayor of Port Richey, which prosecutors claimed was obstructing justice in regards to a police officer who had been investigating Massad.

The former mayor had been under investigation due to practicing medicine without a proper license, and after getting violent with the authorities, was arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder. We will cover the details of the case along with obstruction of justice charge in Florida.

The Details of the Case

Dale Massad, 71, was the former mayor of Port Richey and was arrested in 2019 after being accused of practicing medicine without a license. When his house was raided by a SWAT team, he fired off two rounds of his gun, which caused him to be charged with several counts of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer.

When authorities searched further in their investigation, they found a call that Massad made from Pasco County Jail to the new mayor who took his position, Terrence Rowe. During their phone call, Massad brought up Donald Howard, the officer who was involved in the investigation of Massad.

“I don’t know why,” Massad said in the call, “but he [Howard] is in on everything.”

“I’m on it,” Rowe allegedly responded.

“Anything you can do is good,” was Massad’s response.

The prosecution claimed that Massad was attempting to obstruct justice by acquiring personal files on Howard without following the proper protocols, and by using Rowe’s position as mayor to assist him.

Massad’s defense team argued that it was simply referring to obtaining the officer’s files, which they reminded there is nothing illegal about getting public records. During the trial, the jury only needed 50 minutes to convict Massad of obstruction of justice and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. He was then sentenced to five years of probation.

Obstructing Justice Charge Overturned

However now after going to the appeals court, it has been determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove Massad and Rowe attempted to use the personal information against officer Howard.

The written decision by the appeals court contained the following statement:

“There was no evidence of an agreement between Mr. Massad and Mr. Rowe to use these documents for the purpose of intimidation or retaliation against Officer Howard, especially given the timing of Mr. Rowe’s request, which was made prior to the June 3rd, 2019 telephone conversation.”

Due to Massad’s reaction of shooting off two rounds at the SWAT team in 2019, he was facing five counts of attempted murder. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges, which included aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, one weapons charge, resisting arrest with violence, and practicing medicine without a license—which is what led to the shooting in his home in the first place. His sentencing from the plea deal was three years in prison, but there were two years counted towards his time due to staying in county jail awaiting trial.

Rowe was still charged with his involvement in the case—getting charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to commit obstruction of justice, and use of a two-way communication device to facilitate the commission of a crime. Rowe was sentenced to two years of probation, along with completing 50 hours of community service.

Massad’s attorney, J. Jervis Wise, gave the following comment regarding his appeal: “We were very happy to see it. Obviously, we’ve always strongly felt that Mr. Massad did nothing to obstruct justice.”

Obstructing Justice Charge in Florida

Florida Statute Section 843 defines obstructing justice as the criminal offense in which an action or inaction has been done for the purpose of hindering law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, or other governmental agencies. There are multiple acts that fall under obstruction of justice, which can include the following:

  • Resisting a police officer
  • Falsely impersonating a police officer
  • Neglect or refusal to aid a police officer
  • Escape through negligence or voluntary action of a police officer
  • Possessing a concealed handcuff key
  • Failure to appear after release on bail
  • Delivering tools to aid in a jail escape
  • Fleeing or evading a police officer
  • Offenses against a police animal
  • Unlawful use of police communications
  • Depriving a victim of medical care during a crime
  • Providing the private information of a police officer

Publishing the name or personal information of a police officer is described under Florida Statute Section 843.17. The law states that  an individual has malicious intent to obstruct the due execution of the law or with the intent to hinder, interrupt, or intimidate any law enforcement officer in the legal performance of his or her duties. This is done by publishing or disseminating the officer’s personal address or phone number without the authority or permission to do so. Getting convicted of this offense is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Getting accused of a crime can be confusing and terrifying. Receiving a criminal conviction can lead to harsh consequences such as paying expensive fines and potential jail or prison time. In the event that you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, your first step should be to seek out the help of a skilled defense attorney in Tallahassee, Florida. Quality legal help can make the difference in a case, and help build you a strong defense. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients all across the state of Florida, and will continue to work tirelessly for our clients. For a free consultation call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

Written by Karissa key

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