Another sad day for the judiciary. Judge Beth Harlan retired from the Polk County Circuit Court bench in an agreement with State Attorney Jerry Hill. This offer was made prior to Judge Harlan being charged with a criminal offense, but she rejected the offer and fought the charges. Recently, her attorneys filed a Motion to Dismiss the criminal charges arguing that no crime was committed. Criminal Defense Attorneys call this a “C-4 Motion” named after the Florida Criminal Rule of Procedure that allows defense attorneys to move for dismissal.
Judge Harlan was accused of approving false time cards for her judicial assistant (JA) which would allegedly allow her JA to be paid for time she did not work. Therefore, Judge Harlan was being accused of aiding or abetting a Grand Theft. Originally, Judge Harlan was charged with Grand Theft and Scheme to Defraud, but the Scheming charge was dropped and the Grand Theft charge was amended. Prosecutors can amend an Information (charging document) fairly easily with a few restrictions. In this case, it was done to better fit the criminal allegations.
The Motion to Dismiss filed by her criminal defense lawyers argued that a judge has flexibility in setting their judicial assistant’s hours. Basically, the judge has the authority to allow her JA to work 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of 9 to 5. Therefore, the charges should be dismissed because JA’s are salaried employees and as long as the JA worked the requisite hours. The motion was heard by Judge Perry, of Casey Anthony fame, but no ruling had been made yet.
The charges against her judicial assistant, Alisha Rupp are still pending. The judicial assistant’s case was set for trial next week, but due to recent developments in that case the trial was continued. The main reason her defense attorney cited was a new Amended Information was filed against Ms. Rupp adding an additional 13 criminal counts to the Information against her. Defense attorneys need time to prepare when new charges are added and that is why the trial will not be next week.
I have personally practiced before Judge Harlan for a number of years. In my opinion she was an excellent judge and there are never any winners in these cases.
If you have been arrested for Grand Theft or Scheme to Defraud, call an experienced Polk County criminal defense attorney.
Thomas C. Grajek — 863-688-4606