By Steve Plunkett
One of the Ocean Ridge police officers who charged then-Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella with resisting arrest with violence last October did not make the same charge stick in a second, unrelated case.
The State Attorney’s Office decided July 17 not to press charges against a West Palm Beach man Police Officer Richard Ermeri encountered jogging south on A1A late May 20.
Ermeri was investigating a 911 call from a woman who complained that a stranger was following her when he saw Christian Stewart, 40, just after 11 p.m. Stewart matched the woman’s description: a white man, dark shorts, beard, backpack.
Ermeri rolled down the passenger window of his car, called out “and he ignored me,” Ermeri wrote in his arrest report. He activated his flashing lights and aimed his spotlight at Stewart, “to which he advised me to stop shining my light on him,” Ermeri wrote.
Stewart continued to jog south on A1A and turned west on Ocean Avenue. Ermeri passed the man, stopped about 100 yards in front of him, got out of his car and ordered Stewart to stop. But Stewart kept jogging.
So Ermeri grabbed him with both hands and ordered him to stop. Stewart “tried to pull away from me and when he was unable to, he began to become verbally and physically aggressive with me by yelling at me to let him go and by attempting to turn around and face me,” Ermeri reported.
Ermeri said Stewart began to lift his hands above his midsection, “a fighting stance,” and Ermeri “believed that he was going to strike me at any moment.”
By then Sgt. Gary Roy had arrived.
“I assisted Sgt. Roy with directing [Stewart] to the ground by stepping back with my right foot, shifting my weight to the right, and pulling down on his upper torso with both of my hands,” Ermeri wrote.
Ermeri charged Stewart with resisting arrest with violence, a felony, and resisting arrest without violence, a misdemeanor.
Roy’s report matched Ermeri’s. Stewart “became active aggressive when he took a fighting stance and used physical actions to attempt striking Officer Ermeri,” Roy wrote.
But before connecting with Ermeri, Roy spoke with the woman who made the 911 call and was told the stranger was headed north, not south, on A1A. After the arrest, “It was determined that [Stewart] was not the individual that had been following” the woman, Roy reported.
Lucibella and Stewart are the only people Ermeri has charged with resisting arrest with violence, according to the clerk of the courts online docket.
Stewart tried to get a public defender but was declared not indigent. Paul Walsh, a partner of Lucibella’s defense attorney, Marc Shiner, took on Stewart’s case. Walsh did not respond to a phone call or email seeking comment on the case.
The State Attorney’s Office dropped the felony charge on June 8.
On July 17 Assistant State Attorney Daniel Taub said his office would not pursue the misdemeanor charge in exchange for Stewart’s paying the $50 cost of prosecution.
By Steve Plunkett