If you have followed the Byrd and Melanie Billings murders, you may have also followed the case of another man, Mark Turner, in the Pensacola – Gulf Breeze, Florida area. There is some new news about Mark Turner.
For some quick background, Bud Billings and Mark knew each other. They were both in the same business – used cars. Mark believes that the accused killer of the Billings, Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. also tried to kill him in December 2007.
At that time, Mark filed his report of the break-in at his house and gave authorities the details. He did not know Gonzalez’s identity until Patrick Gonzalez’s photo was splashed all over the nation in connection with the Billings’ murders.
On September 14th, Mark Turner had another meeting with the FBI. The FBI requested that the Escambia County Sheriff’s Department send an investigator over to join them. Investigator Tom Watson, one of the lead investigators on the Billings murders showed up. After going over all the details with Watson – why he believes Leonard Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. tried to break into his home in 2007, the Sheriff’s office asked Turner to update his previous report. He did so.
Guess what? There is no press about this in the Pensacola area. Not a peep – just as there has been no press about Mark Turner suing one of the area’s, perhaps, wealthiest businessmen, Pete Moore, just as there has been no reporting on criminal charges against Turner.
It is reasonable to think that local residents might interested in this story, no matter who is perceived to be guilty or not guilty.
Mr. Moore generously buys ad space from at least one newspaper in the area. He and his wife sit on the board of a charity, The Santa Rosa Kids House, along with the Florida State Prosecutor’s wife, and the Sheriff of the county where Mark Turner’s house is located, and where Turner first made the complaint about the break-in attempt. Does the close relationship between those involved in charges against Turner have anything to do with the fact that Turner believes he did not receive a fair trial? It is a question deserving serious thought by local officials, especially since Mr. Moore generously donates vehicles to area police, sheriff and beach rescue.
Wouldn’t you think a new charge against the accused killer of the Billings might be important local news? Especially when Turner and Billings were in the same business, and it is possible that Gonzalez, Jr. tried to “hit” Turner, as he did the Billings.
Mr. Turner believes that his current charge naming Gonzalez, Jr. in a Trespassing Home Invasion has gone back into a file dated 2007. In other words, it may not show up on the appropriate radar. Maybe it is just a oversight that the press in Pensacola and Escambia County are not telling their readers about a connection that could lead investigators even deeper into the story behind Bud and Melanie Billings. Hmmmm.
Of course, Mark Turner’s story is far more complicated than a paid “hit” on him and his family. The “hit,” if that is what it was, failed because Turner chased the perpetrator to a waiting, and running vehicle in his driveway. The Turner’s lived. The Billings did not.
However, the auto industry and the used auto industry in Pensacola gave the State of Florida an opportunity to file criminal charges against Turner. Why would the State do this? Mark believes it is because he had a $36 million civil lawsuit pending against the local businessman and philanthropist, Pete Moore and Pete Moore Chevrolet.
The short story is, Mark Turner believes he was framed in an attempt to get him to drop the lawsuit against Pete Moore. In fact, Turner has two letters informing him he could get a plea offer. One letter specifically says that by dropping the civil lawsuit, Pete Moore would dismiss the “restitution” owed him. Turner seems to have all the documents to show that he did not, and does not, owe Pete Moore a penny, and that was the case at least one year before he was taken to trial. You can view the letters at Mark Turner’s website.
While I was unable to access my computer over the past two weeks, Mark Turner received word that his appeals documents must be completed and turned over to the Appeals Court on October 5th. From there, his state-appointed appeals attorney will build her case and then turn it over to Florida Special Prosecutor Russell Edgar. Edgar will then respond and finally, a jury of three will decide Mark Turner’s fate. The whole process could take as long as two months, but may be over much quicker.
This is a dire situation for Mark and his family.
At the time of his trial, Russ Edgar entered Motions of Limine that kept a good deal of crucial information out of the court and away from the jury. If I understand it correctly, Turner’s attorney did not object. If I understand it correctly, Turner’s appeal attorney says there is nothing that can be done about the situation now. It is what it is – even though the rest of his life can be spent behind bars. Even though the information is documented and available.
*) Unbelievably, the Motion in Limine document states that Mark’s attorney failed to file “motions to dismiss any of the offenses alleged because a crime is not alleged,” including RICO charges, and Turner’s attorney filed no motions disputing the Pete Moore charges.
*) The “motions” prevented Mark’s attorney’s assertion that the State’s charges should have been civil charges.
*) The motion prevented statements informing the jury that Pete Moore had not filed any criminal complaints against Turner.
The most serious charges against Turner were the money laundering charges (racketeering). I’m not an attorney so I cannot make declarative statements about the validity of those charges, but Prosecutor Edgar explained his own thinking in public court documents. Here are some explanations from a previous post.
In the testimony from certified documents that I have in my possession, from Mark’s Restitution Hearing in June 2008, Edgar explained it this way:
Page 912 and 913 (23-2-24) beginning at the end of Line 25, Russ Edgar speaking:
The transaction total is, how much did you withdraw from the Auto Gallery account? Okay. It could be 25,000, $26,000. How much did you deposit in Jim Chase’s account? that would be $26,000. How much money did you take out of Jim Chase’s account? That’s $26,000. How much did you put into the new bank account that you created for the new business? That could be $26,000. Total transaction, $104,000. That’s over $100,000.
In this case, the $26,000.00 figure is an example, and to be considered money laundry and reach a conviction on the charge, the figure being prosecuted must be over $100,000.00.
Here is testimony from Turner’s Restitution hearing, available on his website, Page 907, beginning at Line 20, it says:
The total of all of that that’s owed is $83,643.73, which, in fact, is less tank the jury found. The jury found that it was more than 100,000, but the — that is contrary to the weight of the evidence introduced in its case in chief by the State.
If you are reading this, please keep in mind that Mark Turner asserts that he does not owe the $83,000+ figure. Read here to follow the money, and most importantly, Mark explains the money laundering charges and all the monies involved here.
Very important about the money laundering charges are that Mark’s civil attorney, Jim Chase, is his key witness against the charge. When Mark moved his business’ funds from a bank, on advice of his banker, to his his attorney’s trust account, paid his bills from the attorney’s trust account and then opened a new bank account where the funds ended up, and all this movement is what Edgar calls “money laundering,” then Chase’s testimony is important. When the Defense called Jim Chase to the stand, the court was told that Edgar would read Chase his 5th Amendment Rights in front of the jury – which Turner says would indicate to the jury that Chase would possibly lie and be arrested on the spot.
Chase did not take the stand.
Here’s how it all works: Turner says he called the State Attorney Generals office. Speaking with someone there, he explained that the State Prosecutor, the State Special Prosecutor, Pete Moore and Moore’s attorneys, and some of the wives of these men are close friends. He said I filed a lawsuit against Moore and criminal charges were filed against me in return. Turner told the AG’s office that he had all the proof anyone could need to see the truth. He was told that the AG’s office was not there to help Turner. They were there to defend the State Prosecutors – and if Turner sued the State or the Prosecutors, the AG’s office would not be on Turner’s side. The implication was that Turner’s evidence and information meant nothing. Turner had and has no plans to sue anyone.
Mark has, in writing, Pete Moore’s insurance attorney Kevin Hausfeld’s offer to the Escambia County Sheriff:
“Please contact me if you feel you need more information/evidence to prosecute Mark Turner for fraud, perjury, conspiracy, theft, embezzlement…etc.”
Folks, is Pete Moore’s attorney making an offer to the Sheriff? This all happened after the Sheriff’s Department allowed Hausfeld to take boxes of information about Mark Turner – most of it supplied by his brother David – out of the Sheriff’s premises (some documents subpoened – I think it is illegal to hand out subpoened documents to anyone), in return for supplying an index of the box’s contents. Again, the information was given to Pete Moore’s attorney – evidence which never should have left the chain of security. Pete Moore has never pressed charges against Turner – yet Moore’s attorney offered to help supply evidence to prosecute Turner. There has been no effort to assure Turner that his evidence was not tampered with, but Turner has his own story:
Motion hearings are missing from my public defender’s Books of Appeal. Why? Because, my defense attorney filed my appeal and apparently, whoever files the appeal, orders the Books of Appeal.
Is there any place in the U.S. where state attorneys are not so tightly anchored to the success of each other, rather than their own citizens? What can someone like Mark Turner do to defend himself?
Background and related: