Charges Dropped Against JSO Officer Who Beat Handcuffed Teen

Aug 1, 2018

A police officer who beat a handcuffed teenager will avoid jail and can continue policing as a result of an agreement with prosecutors to drop charges.

Our Florida Times-Union news partner reports Timothy James will resign from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, effective Thursday; and he agreed he won’t be a police officer in Duval, Clay or Nassau counties for three years. He is not restricted from working elsewhere.

The State Attorney’s Office said in a document there was a strong chance that a jury wouldn’t have convicted James, who has a lengthy record of internal affairs complaints, of the misdemeanor battery charge.

James was arrested in June 2017 after he beat up Elias Campos, then 17. James was supposed to be taking Campos into custody, but James claimed Campos spat on him, and then James beat Campos so badly that the boy’s face was bleeding, puffy and, Campos said, he chipped a tooth.

After James put Campos and his 18-year-old brother in the car, there were three times, witnesses said, that James hit Campos. James’ supervisor, Sgt. Douglas Howell, himself witnessed two of the beatings. But prosecutors had to prove the beatings weren’t justified.

Chief Assistant State Attorney Mac Heavener wrote a detailed statement explaining why the office wasn’t prosecuting James. In it, Heavener said that the deal “provides a certain result with a law enforcement officer with documented patterns of poor judgment, violations of policing norms, and quick, imprudent resorts to force. Consequently, this disposition serves the public interest better than pressing forward a case involving significant trial risk against that officer. With stronger proof, a different result might obtain.”

John Phillips, an attorney who represents Campos, said he was disappointed in the outcome. “It’s preposterous. ... In this one, the system failed, and the state attorney helped the system fail by plea bargaining too low of a plea bargain, too low of a negotiation. We’re recycling bad cops, not taking them out of the system.”

Steve Zona, the police union president, said, “The criminal justice system has worked as intended, and we wish Tim James well in the future.”

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will continue its own internal investigation into James, said Officer Melissa Bujeda, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.

A longer version of this story that includes a composite photo of the injuries sustained by Elias Campos is on Jacksonville.com.