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Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 2 years ago

Court finds probable cause for police to seize Longboat condo

Additional charges filed against condo owner in video voyeurism case.
by: Bret Hauff Staff Writer

One person among the more than two dozen visitors, and potential victims, knew they were being recorded by hidden cameras when they stayed at 623 Cedars Court, Longboat Key Police said in making its case for the seizure of the condominium in a video voyeurism investigation.

Some 55 tenants rented Wyatt Natt’s Longboat condo since November 2015, Lt. Robert Bourque testified in a hearing last week, but police have discovered video time-stamped back to July 2008. Of the 25 suspected victims Bourque said he contacted since starting the investigation, launched after Natt’s arrest in September, just one said they knew Natt was filming them, opening up the possibility of more charges.

Lawyers last week argued whether the Police Department had the evidence necessary to support probable cause that the two-story, one-bedroom, two-bath condominium was used as an instrument in the commission of a felony. In the end, the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Manatee County approved Longboat Key Police Department’s seizure of Natt’s condo.

Longboat Police Detective Lieutenant Robert Bourque testifies to questions from council representing the department , Regina Kardash.

Longboat Key now has 45 days to file a complaint for permanent forfeiture, which Regina Kardash, the lawyer representing the town, said will essentially mirror the town’s presentation made last week to the court. But the town must meet a higher burden of proof for forfeiture — beyond a reasonable doubt — than it needed to seize the home.

The court ordered that Natt not film any third parties on the premises, that he continue making all payments, including taxes, association fees and insurance, and that he not allow any liens on the property without notice to the town until the forfeiture proceedings conclude.

Kardash presented the court with documents detailing four charges of third-degree felony video voyeurism, one of which was connected to Natt’s Sept. 29 arrest.

Natt surrendered to police Nov. 20 on  three additional charges.

Bourque answered questions from both Kardash and Michael Gelety, the lawyer representing Natt at the Nov. 21 hearing, about the detective’s investigation into the alleged nonconsensual video and audio recording that occurred on Longboat since at least 2008, according to the affidavit

“The tools that we have available to us, we used,” Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming said outside the Manatee Judicial Center.

Natt denied a request for comment.

Seizing a home has happened just once before since 2001 in almost 300 forfeiture cases across Sarasota and Manatee counties, according to a Longboat Observer analysis. Most of the cases involved vehicles or cash.

None involved Longboat Key.

State law permits the arresting agency to retain the property, salvage or trade it to a public or nonprofit organization or sell it. Any funds received from selling a property may be used, in order of priority, to pay court liens, preserve the property, pay costs of the forfeiture proceedings, and fund special law enforcement trusts, training or equipment.

County property records list the value of 623 Cedars Court at about $170,000. State law does not allow a seizing agency  to consider this.

Town commissioners authorized the move by a 4-3 vote.

Natt has pleaded not guilty to the felony charges of video voyeurism, court records show.

Florida law permits an arresting agency to pursue forfeiture action against a property it believes was “used as an instrumentality in the commission of any felony,” according to the statute. The validity of such a case is not dependent on a conviction.

Updated Wednesday, Nov. 29, at 1:13 p.m.

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