By Steve Plunkett
Attorneys for Richard Lucibella and the state of Florida will square off for oral arguments before the 4th District Court of Appeal on Feb. 25.
Lucibella, now 66, is appealing his conviction of misdemeanor battery on Ocean Ridge police Officer Richard Ermeri during an October 2016 altercation in his oceanfront backyard. Ermeri and other town police went to the then-vice mayor’s house after residents reported hearing gunfire in the neighborhood.
The opposing attorneys, Senior Assistant Attorney General Melynda Melear for the state and Leonard Feuer for Lucibella, will each get 15 minutes to present their side to a panel of three judges.
“After the judges confer, a decision is made, and an opinion may be written,” says the West Palm Beach court’s website. “Each case presents its own issues and difficulties; in most cases the decision is made within 180 days from the conference.”
Ermeri, fellow Officer Nubia Plesnik and Sgt. William Hallahan went to Lucibella’s backyard while investigating the 911 calls about gunshots; a scuffle ensued.
In his trial last February, Lucibella was found not guilty of resisting arrest with violence and not guilty of felony battery on a law enforcement officer but guilty of simple battery. He was ordered to pay $675 in court costs.
He wants the appellate judges to vacate his conviction and order Circuit Judge Daliah Weiss to enter a judgment of acquittal or give him a new trial. Melear asks that the 4th District Court of Appeal affirm Lucibella’s Feb. 21 conviction.
Feuer and Melear will present sharply different views of what happened in Lucibella’s backyard.
Feuer, for example, says Ermeri caused the first instance of violence in this case “by grabbing Lucibella’s shoulders to obstruct his entry into his home or prevent him from obtaining a drink.”
Melear, on the other hand, says Lucibella “poked the officer forcefully in the chest while threatening him” after “he first walked aggressively into the officer’s extended hands and grabbed him by the neck.”