The executive director of the Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers program is facing up to two weeks in jail on a contempt of court charge after he stuffed a piece of paper with an anonymous tip into his mouth instead of turning it over to a judge.
NBC6 South Florida reports that Richard Masten was appearing before Judge Victoria Brennan on Friday when the judge requested to see a printed tip related to a cocaine possession case. The former police chief instead ripped off a piece of the paper and proceeded to eat it before tossing the rest of the paper away.
Masten had been ordered to share the tip, without the source, with the judge after an attorney for a woman charged with cocaine possession asked to see the information it contained.
Masten felt differently, claiming it would be a ‘slippery slope’ if anonymous tips were not held in confidence.
“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,” Masten explained. “The case today started creeping into that… it’s not going to happen on my watch and I understood the consequences.”
Masten added, ““If you do it in this case, the question comes down the road, well you did it in that case why not this case,” he said. “Well, I’m not going to do it in this case.”
The defense attorney said that his request had nothing to do with identifying the tipster.
“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,” Jean-Michel D’Escoubet said. “It’s only the evidence that would be used in trial against her that the tip provided.”
Judge Victoria Brennan ruled Masten’s actions unacceptable and found him in contempt of court, writing: “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.”
Leaving the courthouse Masten, facing a two-week incarceration, told reporters that he would appear in court next week and would bring his toothbrush and pajamas in case the judge sent him off to jail.
Watch the video below from NBC6 South Florida: