It was McGruff the Crime Dog that encouraged us to take a “bite out of crime,” but this certainly was not what the crime watchdog had in mind. The executive director of the Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers program, Richard Masten, faces jail time over contempt of court charges after he stuffed a piece of evidence in his mouth to destroy it.
According to nbcmiami.com on Saturday, Masten was “appearing before Judge Victoria Brennan when he refused to share information related to a tip in a cocaine possession case. Instead, he ate the paper containing the tip while sitting in court.”
Crime Stoppers USA is a national organization that “spans the United States to create a network of local programs that work together to prevent and solve crimes in communities and schools across the nation,” says the group’s website.
Masten was called on to testify in a cocaine possession case. The attorney representing the woman charged with the crime asked to see the alleged incriminating information written as a “tip” to police. The judge ordered that Masten turn it over, and despite the attorney assuring the court that he was in no way interested with the name of the tipster – only wanting to see the “evidence” – Masten refused and brazenly stuffed the paper in his mouth.
“In this case, there’s absolutely no information that I am looking for that has to do with the name or the identity of a tipster,” attorney Jean-Michel D’Escoubet said. “it's only the evidence that would be used in trial against her that the tip provided.”
Masten saw it differently, saying that if he were compromise the tipster's identity, he would lose credibility and have his trust undermined.
“We promise the people who give us information to solve murders, serious violent crimes in this community, that they can call with an assurance that they will remain anonymous and that nothing about them or their information would ever be compromised,” he said. “The case today started creeping into that... it’s not going to happen on my watch and I understood the consequences.”
Judge Brennan found the Crime Stopper in contempt of court for his actions. He’s to appear next week, where he faces up to two weeks behind bars.
“The court would be remiss to turn a blind eye to a flagrant refusal to honor a court order, and give more value to an individual’s opinion on what is right, rather than to the dictates of the laws enacted by the people of Florida,” Brennan wrote.
Masten’s reply was equally steadfast as to the possibility of jail time.
“I’ll bring a toothbrush and some pajamas in case I do,” he said, adding that his paper meal was his “lunch.”
Masten is a former police chief in Miami Shores, and has been the director of Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers since 2008.