By Steve Plunkett
Often-litigious Gulf Stream resident Martin O’Boyle has another legal feather in his cap: The 4th District Court of Appeal affirmed a lower-court decision that acquitted him of misdemeanor resisting a police officer.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court in West Palm Beach heard oral arguments on July 19 and delivered a “per curiam affirmed” decision two days later. A per curiam is issued without a written opinion, ending the possibility of a further appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
The case centered on an incident at Gulf Stream Town Hall after a budget hearing on Sept. 22, 2015. In a probable cause affidavit, Sgt. John Passeggiata said O’Boyle “attempted to deface public property by writing with a marker on a poster displayed in Town Hall.”
The sergeant said he tried to get O’Boyle to stop but O’Boyle answered with a loud obscenity. Then-Police Chief Garrett Ward intervened and also was met with obscenities. After puffing up his chest and shoulders in “a combat stance,” O’Boyle knelt in a doorway to keep police from escorting him outside, Passeggiata said.
“Meeting attendees were passing through the lobby and subject to Mr. O’Boyle’s tirade of obscenities and his disruptive and disorderly behavior,” the sergeant wrote.
A jury last August decided O’Boyle was guilty of resisting a police officer without violence but not guilty of disorderly conduct. After County Judge Ashley Zuckerman sent the jurors home, she agreed with a defense motion to acquit O’Boyle of resisting. She did not elaborate on her decision.
O’Boyle’s attorney in the County Court trial, Michael Salnick, had argued that the disorderly charge, on which jurors found his client not guilty, was a “precursor” to the resisting charge.
“I don’t know how legally the resisting can survive,” Salnick said. But prosecutor Nicole Bloom said the case was about resisting a lawful order to leave Town Hall, not about resisting an arrest. “If this was resisting the arrest for disorderly conduct then perhaps we would be in a different situation, but that’s not where we are,” Bloom said.
Fort Lauderdale attorney Fred Haddad, who represented O’Boyle at the 4th DCA, and Assistant Attorney General Sorraya Solages-Jones, representing the prosecutor, took similar positions during the oral arguments.
At the 2015 meeting, town commissioners raised taxes 38% and earmarked $1 million for legal fees to fight lawsuits from O’Boyle and then-resident Chris O’Hare over public records requests. O’Boyle and O’Hare at that point had made about 1,700 requests for records over three years and filed dozens of lawsuits.
Many of the lawsuits were settled, won by Gulf Stream or withdrawn. O’Boyle was the winner in a federal case accusing him of racketeering and in a public records case involving police radio communications. The amount of legal fees the town will pay O’Boyle’s attorneys in the police radio case is also being appealed.