State prosecutor believes evidence is withheld in Polk tow yard shooting case

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LAKELAND – A bail hearing for a Lakeland man awaiting second degree murder trial was postponed Friday when a state prosecutor claimed the defense withheld video evidence of the incident.

Michael Shane Denn II, 29, is accused of shooting Juan Barroso-Muriel, 35, of Lakeland on May 17 after an argument at Denn’s company, Strapped Transport Towing and Recovery in Mulberry. He has been in Polk County Jail without bond since his arrest that day.

At the start of a bail hearing on Friday, Deputy State Attorney Ralph Guerra requested an extension from Judge Keith Spoto. He said defense attorneys Richard Escobar and Dino Michaels provided him with a video on a USB drive earlier this week that had been edited and his office had not had time to review it.

“Two days ago Mr. Escobar and Mr. Michaels arranged a meeting with me where they provided me with a USB stick containing a video of the crime scene which includes the death point of the victim in this case.” , Guerra said. “This video is from the accused’s company.”

Guerra said that on the night of the shooting, law enforcement requested surveillance video from the towing company co-owner, who Guerra says is Denn’s mother.

“They were told the video did not exist,” Guerra said. “That the camera equipment was not operational. It was a lie.

Guerra said defense lawyers presented the video, edited and muted, on Wednesday to force the state to accept bail. He said the state had reason to believe the company had plugged in the audio.

“I think it’s very clear that the video shows, at least, second degree murder in this case,” Guerra said. “The current problem facing the state is that the defense attorneys in this case are in possession of the evidence that is the subject of a search warrant and have not provided it in full to the state.”

Polk County Sheriff’s Office detective Angel Shireman has footage from inside the business of wires being detached by a television, Guerra said.

Guerra said the state needed more time to obtain the defense recording device and asked the judge to grant the extension and order the defense to provide the full recording device. at the sheriff’s office.

“The prosecutor appears to be telling the court that something that belongs to the company, one way or another, should have belonged to the government,” Escobar said.

Escobar said the company kept the evidence and it was sent to a retired former director of an FBI lab specializing in video and audio equipment.

“He took that particular piece of equipment and kept the hard drive in its pristine state,” Escobar said. “So for the prosecution here to suggest that somehow we were holding this video ransom until the last minute is incorrect. “

Escobar also countered Guerra’s claim that the video showed second degree murder.

“If he thinks the video is so good for him, why is he asking for an extension,” Escobar said.

Escobar said the videos are difficult to edit and the video would show the court that Denn had no choice but to shoot.

Escobar told Spoto his experts had the original video in their possession and made a clone of the video so that they could work with to preserve the original copy.

Guerra said the video was the subject of a search warrant served on May 17.

Escobar said the equipment was not at the scene when the search warrant was executed.

“We wanted to make sure that at the end of the day there wouldn’t be a single problem with this video because it’s very good for the defense,” Escobar said. “So we have the original, which has not been used in a negative way in any way. We cloned one for ourselves so we could work with it, and we gave them a copy.

Guerra said he didn’t think it was a coincidence that they shared the video just days before the hearing.

“Several weeks ago I got a call from Mr. Dino Michaels saying they had evidence they wanted me and the state attorney to see,” Guerra said. “I guess that’s what they were talking about.”

After a brief hiatus, Spoto offered lawyers the option of resuming the hearing without using the video or granting an extension so the state could retrieve and review the evidence.

Escobar did not want to resume the hearing without the video because he said it was very important for the defense.

“I think that proves our case altogether,” Escobar said. “So we can’t move forward, obviously, without this video.”

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