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Suspect alleges DUI was a trap

He says he complied with a request to move his car while at a party. His trial is today.

By ANITA KUMAR

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 13, 2000


At the front door of a house party in Crystal Beach last year, a Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy ordered teenagers inside to move cars parked along the road.

When 19-year-old Jared Cartier complied, he promptly was arrested on a drunken driving charge.

The teenager's stepfather, Al Richert, asked a friend for help.

He called Pinellas Chief Deputy Jim Coats, the second-in-command at the Sheriff's Office, who ordered an internal investigation of the deputy, records show.

Richert then told prosecutors that the deputy was under investigation. He asked them to drop the charges, records show.

They didn't.

Cartier, now 21 and a University of Central Florida student who told deputies he drank a dozen beers that night, will be tried today in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court.

"We know his father has connections, but he ain't got no clout here," said Bill Tyson, assistant division director for misdemeanors at the State Attorney's Office. "Once the police make the arrest, it's our case. We're prosecuting him."

Deputy Michael Manning, 40, a 12-year-veteran with a clean record, was cleared of any wrongdoing last year after a three-month investigation, records show. He did not return phone calls this week.

"Someone's job should not be on the line because (Richert) knows somebody in the position of power," said Tom Carey, a Clearwater attorney contacted by Manning last week. "He's a guy doing his job who got slammed for doing his job. That needs to be carefully looked at."

Richert, Coats and Cartier's attorney, Jan Press, all acknowledge that Richert asked Coats for help but said there is nothing wrong with a friend seeking help.

"It's not unusual if someone feels there has been impropriety in the agency to call (the sheriff) or myself," Coats said. "A lot of people in the community know me. . . . Who are you going to call? Someone you know or someone you don't know?"

Coats said Richert, the stepfather, never asked for the charge to be dropped. But his stepson, Cartier, told internal affairs investigators that was exactly what his stepdad wanted.

"Jared, was the purpose of filing the complaint against Deputy Manning to try to get the criminal DUI dropped against you?" internal affairs officers asked Cartier during their inquiry. "Is that the whole purpose of this?"

"Yes, sir," he answered.

Richert, a special agent with the U.S. Customs Service in Tampa who has since retired, said he continues to believe his stepson was singled out by Manning.

He said Manning told partiers to move their cars from the road and then proceeded to arrest only Cartier minutes later, he said.

"I think this whole thing smells of entrapment," Richert said. "I have no idea why he picked on my son."

Cartier told investigators he had been drinking with other underage friends at a Crystal Beach residence on Jan. 10, 1999.

Manning showed up about 11:30 p.m. and told the host that the guests needed to move their cars from along the road, Cartier said.

The deputy also told the host that his guests would have to leave or the host could face charges of allowing underage drinking, Cartier said.

Cartier, who planned to stay at the host's house that night, said he did not want to get behind the wheel but that he eventually started to move his car around the corner when Manning stopped him.

"I feel that I was pretty much entrapped to get into my car, you know. Even though the officer didn't tell me personally to move my car, I feel that by exerting the pressure on my friend to, you know, to get everybody out of here that I was basically forced into that situation," Cartier told investigators.

Manning testified that he was dispatched to the 500 block of Florida Avenue that night because of a "suspicious person" call and noticed cars blocking the road.

Manning testified he told the host to have his guests leave, warning him not to allow any of them to drive drunk, said Tyson of the state attorney's office. Tyson said Cartier's blood-alcohol level was about 0.15, nearly twice the limit at which a person is presumed to be impaired.

Manning said he drove around the block and returned to see whether guests were leaving. That's when he saw a car with no lights driving erratically, he said.

Richert said his stepson does not plan to plead guilty to any charge because he was forced to drive.

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