Thursday, July 8, 2010

Michael Barfield: A Zealous Accuser, Yes. But A Willing Witness? Not So Much.

Michael Barfield - Paralegal
Photo Courtesy of Michael Price -

In the midst of so much fun, like the understandable excitement surrounding the Citizens Ballot Initiative regarding parking on Pine Avenue, the withering echo of the recall effort, PAR’s smirking reluctance to sue its own City, and the well organized but Captain Renault-esque hysteria over anonymous local snitches ("I'm shocked, shocked to find that ordinances are being ignored around here!"), one tends to forget that PAR’s, er, Michael Barfield’s lawsuit over public records cruises right along down at the courthouse.

But it seems Barfield, a/k/a Inmate #15549-075, no longer desires to be the swashbuckling spear gun toting sunshine-law musketeer the Mayor and the Islander made him out to be in those heady days of front page “shadow government” headlines. In what some may consider just another form of the plea bargaining he apparently spent the 80’s, 90’s and the early part of this decade perfecting, it now appears he’s tried to cut a yet another deal designed to dodge his legal obligation to testify in the lawsuit he, with a shameless shove from Micheal Coleman and PAR, filed with so much flourish and conviction (pun intended) back in April.

As with any litigation, both sides are required to provide to the other, under oath and subject to penalties for perjury, basic information known to or available to them regarding the facts of the case and, in most instances, related to the background and credibility of witnesses. Under Florida law, and frankly the laws of all states and the federal government, the criminal history of a witness, particularly a felonious history involving crimes of dishonesty such as theft, conspiracy, fraud and perjury, is highly relevant, discoverable and admissible at trial. The theory behind such admissibility is self-evident: if the guy on the witness stand has served felony time for, in effect, being a thieving con-artist who has willingly lied under oath before, the judge and/or jury must be given the opportunity to consider those particularly ignoble character traits when weighing the value of the lying thief’s testimony. Stay with us by clicking the "Please Read More" jump below:

So back in April, attorney Richard Harrison formally asked Inmate #15549-075‘s lawyer Valerie Fernandez to have him list his numerous prior convictions. Under the law, Inmate #15549-075 had 30 days to respond. Fernandez asked for an extension, which Harrison granted, but instead of later providing an answer she objected to the request, calling it “harassment.” Perhaps it was an unsettling cell-block flash back or a fear of revealing the pertinent details of his repeated paid vacations behind the razor-wire, but that seems to be about the time Inmate #15549-075 got stage fright at the thought of actually raising his right hand, taking an oath and stuttering though testimony while a jury eyeballs him from a few feet away. Just one day after her ludicrous cry of harassment, Fernandez emailed Harrison and essentially offered to muzzle her client if Harrison would agree to back off seeking Barfield’s sworn list of felony convictions. Harrison, uh, declined. You can read the details of this legal tango by clicking HERE and following the chronology and exhibits set out by Harrison in his initial motion. The motion paints a pretty clear picture of a reluctant plaintiff pushed into something he isn’t particularly interested in completing.

Last week, Inmate #15549-075 did provide a half-hearted (but legally insufficient) response to the convictions question which you can read in Harrison’s most recent motion by clicking HERE. The theft, conspiracy, fraud and perjury convictions we used as examples above are all there and then some. As you can read, Harrison apparently has every intention of placing Inmate #15549-075 under oath and questioning him as soon as early August. PAR must be just swelling with civic pride, huh?

We’ll keep you posted so come back often and, of course,

Stay informed.

UPDATE July 9, 2010: Harrison's renewed motion has been set for hearing before Judge Nicholas on September 21, 2010. You can read the Notice of Hearing by clicking HERE.

Bill Yanger

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