As you know, I’ve been talking about Mark Turner in Pensacola, Florida, the auto and used car industry there, the murders of Bud and Melanie Billings, also in the same industry with Mark in the Pensacola area, and how Mark is facing many years in prison. I want to look at how Mark Turner may have been framed. Soon I hope to have a piece up on all of the money involved in the charges that are bringing the biggest portion of Turner’s sentence. See update below.
For those of you following this story, I will not go into all the details again, but there are links at the bottom of this article to all the background info.
Skipping the minutiae, let’s get to the probability of why Florida charged Mark Turner with criminal action.
*) Mark Turner filed a $36 million civil lawsuit against Peter Moore, owner of Pete Moore Chevrolet in Pensacola.
*) A couple of years later, the State of Florida had Mark Turner arrested on criminal charges, provided to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department by one of Pete Moore’s attorneys. In a letter to the Sheriff’s Department, Moore attorney Kevin Hausfeld said this:
Please contact me if you feel you need more information/evidence to prosecute Mark Turner for fraud, perjury, conspiracy, theft, embezzlement…etc.”
Hausfeld admitted that “he participated by following orders [from his law firm] and Escambia country sheriff’s Investigator Busbee.”
Tell me how this evidence, summarized by a law firm acting on behalf of Pete Moore, or Pete Moore Chevrolet, neither of which are “victims” can be used to file charges against Mark Turner?
In Mark Turner’s complaint to the Florida Bar against Kevin Hausfeld, which I ordered from the Florida Bar, and have copies in my hand, Turner says:
Mr. Hausfeld says ‘through the course of the investigation,” but what investigation? A criminal investigation is conducted by the Sheriff or the prosecutor, not an insurance defense firm. Why would a Sheriff relinquish his criminal evidence to an insurance defense firm;…
The answer to this question seems to be that Pete Moore wanted the Sheriff’s office to do so. More from Turner’s Bar complaint:
If the Sheriff had the boxes for years/months and was investigating, but could make no legal determination of wrongdoing to make an arrest, asking/letting/telling a defense firm to marshall the evidence obviously is biased, motivated by something subjective. No arrests could be or were made until the biased memo was written by Mr. Hausfeld and [his law firm], whose client had everything to gain by a memo that concluded wrongdoing by me. Obviously, no exculpatory evidence would be included in the memo.
Mark’s criminal attorney, Barry Beroset, argued in court, to no avail, that the criminal lawsuit was brought against Turner to stifle his civil case against Moore.
*) The Escambia County Sheriff’s Department at that time (not under Sheriff Morgan’s command) allowed information/evidence on Mark Turner to leave the Sheriff’s chain-of-command, and be given to Pete Moore’s attorneys.
In theory, should Mark’s attorney be able to pick up all the files from the Sheriff’s Department on Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr, the alleged murderer of the Billings, sort through it, index it and write a summary for the Sheriff’s office, simply because Mark believes Gonzalez tried a “hit” on him in December 2007? Investigator Charles Busbee let the files out of the chain-of-command, and put them in the hands of an attorney for a powerful philanthropist (Pete Moore) who donates new cars – every year – to the Police Department, the Sheriff Department and Beach Rescue.
*) When Special Prosecutor Russ Edgar filed criminal charges against Mark Turner, it put the $36 million lawsuit against Moore on terminal hold until after the criminal trial. Mark’s business and means of livelihood were gone…stolen he believes by Pete Moore, and the charges by the State denied Mark Turner his right to his civil forum.
*) Perhaps the lawsuit against Mark Turner was a type of S.L.A.P.P. (SLAP) lawsuit – although not technically. Here’s how it could have worked in Mark’s case:
Mark sued Pete Moore
Pete’s attorneys got the State to arrest and charge Mark criminally
Pete did not claim to be a victim at the time of Mark’s arrest
It is possible that Mark was “SLAPPed” with a lawsuit to entice him to drop his civil suit against Pete Moore. Mark believes this is exactly what happened. SLAPP’s can also be “malicious prosecution” in either criminal or civil court, when the case is started with the knowledge that the case lacks merit. It appears, going through the evidence, that this happened in Mark’s case. A SLAPP suit seeks to stop a protected right. Pete Moore wasn’t a victim – that is the “SLAPP” part of this case.
S.L.A.P.P. is an acronym for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP). An example is a suit against a whistlerblower, i.e., a Corporation sues you to shut you up. This is not exactly Mark’s situation, but close. SourceWatch refers to being “SLAPPed into Submission,” and says:
Corporate libel lawsuits bring the formidable powers of government and industry together for the purpose of suppressing the views of people with complaints against the system. Ironically, the PR industry is eagerly hyping these lawsuits as populist solutions to the problem of too much government.
*) In Edgar’s lawsuit on behalf of the state, Edgar represented, against Mark, Mark’s brother, David Turner, the Zolnoski’s and the Christensen’s. All of these suits were dismissed. Edgar also had Mark’s wife arrested, costing the Turner family $50,000 before the charges were dropped like the flick of a flea.
*) Turner believes Edgar never expected the case to get to court. Mark refused to settle by dropping the suit against Moore. Eventually, Special Prosecutor Edgar brought in Pete Moore as a “victim,” as well as AFC.
*) Turner owed neither Moore or AFC any monies. Take my word for that for now. Let’s not get side-tracked with too many details. Assume that Mark owed them nothing. The case went on anyway. It had to. What could Edgar do? Who would expect a man to refuse to drop a civil suit, and in so doing, pave the way to a lengthy prison sentence? Mark did. Edgar, et al had to do something. Here are copies of portions of two letters written to Mark. You can access them at Mark Turner’s website:
Re: State v. Turner
Case No: 06 CF 3365
When we were at the Docket Day last week, Russ Edgar indicated he would offer you a plea with a cap of somewhere from 3 to 5 years. The cut off for any plea is November 20, 2007. I just pass this along for your information. Thank you.
And this one:
Re: State v. Turner
Case No.: 06 CF 3365
As I told you on March, 2008 after our meeting, the State has offered you a plea to one count for 10-20 months plus probation and restitution. Any restitution not paid would be reduced to a lien.
On Friday, March 7, 2008, I met with you and reviewed the guideline with you and my rough estimate is at the minimum guidelines 135 months or 11.25 years with a maximum of 90 years imprisonment. This is based upon the three charges presently filed as well as your prior convictions.
I also talked to Mike Guttman who represents Pete Moore and I believe the issue of restitution to Pete Moore could be resolved in your favor by dismissing the civil litigation. That would eliminate a substantial portion of not most of the restitution other than claims to AFC or your brother.
As I told you, it is my recommendation that you give very serious consideration to this offer as I understand that the plea was only open until Friday morning. You have advised it is your decision to go forward with the trial. As such, we will continue to prepare for trial with jury selection to commence at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, March 10, 2008
Notice that although Pete Moore never filed a lawsuit against Mark Turner, Moore was consulted and offered to forgo all monies owed to him by Turner (which were zero dollars) in exchange for the dropping of the civil suit.
In the next article, I hope to layout all the money talked about in this trail. Keep this in mind: about a year before Mark was arrested, he sold a piece of property. His real estate closer called Pete Moore’s attorney, Michael Guttmann and asked for the balance that Turner owned Moore. The balance was $205,000 (plus some change). A check for the amount specified by Guttmann was delivered to Guttmann made payable to Pete Moore (I’m not sure whether it was personally to Moore or to Pete Moore Chevrolet). At that time, Turner believed he owed Moore $146,000. He paid $205,ooo+.
During the trial, under sworn testimony, Moore Comptroller, Roxanne Sawyer said Turner owed Pete Moore $106,000.00 total. She knew nothing about the check for $205,000.00+ given to Guttmann, but Guttmann provided a copy of the check to the Court. So Turner paid Moore $59,000.00 more than he thought he should, and $99,000.00 more than the Comptroller said was due. What’s wrong with this picture? But there’s more: If the Comptroller never saw the check for $205,000.00+, never entered it on the company books, and Pete Moore didn’t tell Sawyer that Turner was completely paid up…what’s up with that? The money went somewhere. Did it go into an infamous slush fund?
I cannot say definitively whether or not Mark Turner was framed, but I can read and I can think. Something about this case is very wrong. To recap how it all began, the Special Prosecutor brought criminal charges against Turner…charges that could not be proven, and no real chance of being proven. Pete Moore’s attorney(s) helped formulate the charges – it’s in writing, although the original charges had nothing to do with Pete Moore. Stay tuned for a run-down of “the money.”
The latest: Mark Turner Needs Your Help: New Trial for Turner: Letter To Gov. Crist.
Related and Background:
Mark Turner, Pete Moore, Russ Edgar, Framing Mark Turner in Pensacola? Update
Background on the Billings’ Murders and what they may have to do with Mark Turner.