DeLand, FL – The Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit responds to a letter sent to him by the Volusia County Sheriff regarding a decision recently made about a convicted man.
Following the release of Mark Fugler, who was convicted on multiple counts of child sex crimes, the State Attorney’s Office filed a motion for the Seventh Judicial Circuit to reconsider allowing Fugler out on bond.
The state’s argument was that Fugler does not have significant ties to the community and is a flight risk.
In response to his release, Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood took to Facebook in protest of the decision made by Judge R. Hutcheson, who presided over Fugler’s case. He also urged the public to do the same and write to Chief Judge Raul Zambrano and State Attorney R.J. Larizza.
In Chitwood’s letter, he called Judge Hutcheson’s decision a “gross miscarriage of justice” and a “slap in the face of the young victim and her family.”
The Sheriff went on to say that Fugler was convicted to 15 years in prison, but an “irresponsible stroke of a pen” puts him back on the streets and “delays the inevitable.” He also accused the “system” of being more concerned about Fugler’s rights and not the young victim and their family.
He closed off by saying, “I implore you to correct this wrong, overturn Judge Hutcheson’s decision, remand Fugler into custody and restore this family and our community’s faith in the justice system.”
In a public letter released today (September 18th), Chief Judge Zambrano responded to Sheriff Chitwood, saying that a chief judge does not have the authority to overturn the rulings made by another judge.
According to Chief Judge Zambrano, asking him to do so would be like asking Sheriff Chitwood to overturn a decision made by a local police chief.
Chief Judge Zambrano went on to say that if a litigant believes that a judge ruled improperly, they may file an appropriate motion and request a hearing before the assigned judge. If that were not to work, they may seek a remedy before an appellate court.
In that letter, Chief Judge Zambrano also said that it’s his firm belief that all judges of the Seventh Judicial Circuit uphold and interpret the law to their best ability, and Judge Hutcheson, who has served Volusia County and the Seventh Judicial Circuit for over 25 years, is no exception.
He went on to comment saying: “It appears that you may be more upset about the fact that the law allows a convicted individual to be released from incarceration pending an appeal. Such a law has been in existence since at least 1956.”
Zambrano went on to mention the Florida Supreme Court case of Younghans v. State, which in sum allows bail under certain conditions after an individual has been found guilty by a jury and sentenced by the court.
The Chief Judge tied up his letter with a final comment saying: “Occasionally, we make mistakes. I know I have made my share of them. But in every instance, upholding the law was foremost on my mind. I am confident that all of our judges are guided by this same principle.”