WEST PALM BEACH — Despite a clear message from a federal court that Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Sergeant Michael Custer may have violated unarmed civilian Seth Adams‘ constitutional rights when he shot and killed him in May 2012, a PBSO-funded lawyer is now arguing the contrary in a federal court of appeals.
In papers filed Wednesday but missed by the local corporate media, Custer legal defender Summer Barranco claims it was indeed reasonable for Custer to shoot Adams despite the fact he wasn’t armed — despite the fact lower court Judge Daniel Hurley has publicly lambasted Custer and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw for their behavior in the case, including for their lack of cooperation with Adams’ family.
The filing obtained exclusively by Gossip Extra seems to boost the theory among some West Palm Beach lawyers that the appeal has no purpose other than stalling a lawsuit that, so far, has made PBSO look downright negligent at a time when Bradshaw seeks his fourth term.
The appeal is over Hurley’s refusal to dismiss a part of the lawsuit brought by Adams’ family against PBSO, Bradshaw and 18-year PBSO veteran Custer.
— It’s yet another Gossip Extra scoop obtained while West Palm Beach’s out-of-town corporate media are so busy trying to survive they’re not capable to find good stories. Be the first to get the news you care about: Click here to subscribe to our daily news alerts!
Up for debate is whether Custer should be granted his law enforcement immunity in the lawsuit.
Hurley decided earlier this year that Custer shouldn’t, and he opened the sergeant to personal liability if the jury finds he did wrong. In English: Hurley, who in several orders appeared to doubt that Custer’s telling the truth, cleared the way for Custer’s personal assets to be seized if the jury finds Custer violated Adams’ civil rights of protection against illegal seizure and use of excessive force.
In appeals, Custer wants the possible damages to be levied against the tax-funded PBSO instead of his personal assets.
“Sgt. Custer reasonably could have believed that probable cause existed to arrest and use deadly force upon Seth Adams,” Barranco’s filing reads.
Among her evidence is the fact that Adams, who was 6 feet 4 inches tall to Custer’s 5 feet 8 inches, was legally drunk when he grabbed Custer by the throat. The encounter came after Adams drove onto his family business’ parking lot in Loxahatchee and found plain-clothes Custer lurking in the darkness.
In her filing, Barranco argues that Custer was on-duty and on a stakeout at the time of the shooting. He wasn’t, she said, trespassing because he didn’t see the several “no trespassing” signs throughout the property.
And he allegedly wore his service shield on his chest so that Adams could identify him as law enforcement.
Barranco doesn’t mention why the lower court judge even decided to hold a trial, now postponed possibly until next year. According to records, PBSO lost or destroyed key evidence, and its own investigation into the shooting was so shoddy that private investigators hired by Adams’ family found one of Custer’s bullets at the scene MONTHS AFTER THE INCIDENT.