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Commissioner Kruse's crash scene statements ruled inadmissible

A circuit court judge agreed with Commissioner George Kruse's attorney that statements recorded by an officer's body cam would violate Kruse's right against self-incrimination in his upcoming DUI tria


Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse
Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse
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Statements made by Manatee County Commissioner George Kruse recorded via the body camera of Sheriff's Office Lt. Nicholas Pruitt at the scene of an April 20, 2022, accident on GreyHawk Boulevard are inadmissible in the State Attorney General's DUI case against Kruse.

That determination was made Wednesday by Judge Erika Quartermaine in a hearing in Twelfth Judicial Circuit Court at the Manatee County Judicial Center. 

The body camera video, without the audio, can be presented as evidence during Kruse's trial, as well as an automated 911 call made by Kruse's vehicle.

Quartermaine said that presenting Kruse's audio statements as evidence would violate his right against self-incrimination. 

The ruling followed a motion to throw out the audio statements by Kruse's attorney Jeffrey Haines. 

Haines said on Tuesday's first day of the hearing that Pruitt, the first official to arrive at the scene. appeared to be conducting a criminal investigation of the incident. 

He said as Pruitt did not read Kruse his Miranda Rights. which would have established Kruse's right to choose to remain silent, so the comments could not be used as evidence. Quartermaine agreed.

Darlene Ragoonanan, a state prosecutor, disagreed with Haines' position and pointed to apparent conflicting statements made by Kruse. 

While Kruse was recorded via body cam, and in the 911 call, as stating that he swerved away in order to avoid another vehicle, Celeste Baez, an insurance claims adjuster with Progressive Insurance, testified on Jan. 17 that Kruse had said the incident occurred when he swerved to avoid a small animal.

Ragoonanan said based on precedent set by other Florida cases, false statements would not be protected under the law. 

Kruse's trial is set to begin Feb. 6.

 

author

Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is a reporter for the East County Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands. You will find Ian at everything from Music on Main in Lakewood Ranch to Manatee County Commission meetings.

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