Sarasota lawyer says Sarasota Police detectives illegally recorded in her office, then retaliated against her
SARASOTA- Varinia Van Ness says the Sarasota Police Department charged her with obstructing an investigation and are retaliating against her after she says detectives Jessica Sullivan and Sergeant Derek Galbraith recorded her lobby as well as a meeting in her office without her knowledge.
“That is illegal and that’s why I have a problem with it. In a lawyer’s office, there is a heightened expectation of privacy," said Van Ness.
Van Ness says detectives started recording before they entered her office for the execution of the warrant seeking DNA as well as the password to his phone, Van Ness says she noticed detectives were recording and she asked them to turn off the recording or get out. She then called 911 to remove the officers. Charges were filed against Van Ness on March 19, the same day she advised her client to not cooperate with that signed search warrant.
“It’s my job to make sure law enforcement in not breaking laws in efforts to obtain evidence and I believe that actions of the police department in this case trying to charge files against me for obstruction were directly done because I had filed an internal affairs complaint against them," said Van Ness.
Van Ness says the police department then went around her and tried to directly contact her client.
“They went to his house to circumvent my being there for the execution of the warrant," said Van Ness.
A move the Van Ness says continues to cross the line.
“Isn’t that what my job is? To advise my client that this is something that he has to do or not, and for me to have to be in fear of being arrested for doing my job, it’s just, I have no words for how offensive that is," said Van Ness.
Prosecutors and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement both declined to pursue the charges against Van Ness.
The Sarasota Police Department released a statement saying, “Our priority is to bring justice to a sexual battery victim. This remains an active and ongoing investigation. We are using every legal means to gather evidence in this case," Chief Bernadette DiPino.
The Sarasota Police Department say they've opened a criminal and internal investigation into both detectives to determine if they violated the law or if there was misconduct.