Gun-Toting Prosecutor Let Off Easy

Okay, so I got the back story on Broward County prosecutor and former Son of Sam attorney Ira Jultak's apparent impersonation of a BSO deputy.

And I'm convinced Jultak got some special treatment from the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal says otherwise, but before we get into the legal issues, here's the story of what happened:

Jultak was spotted by an off-duty detective in the check-out line at the Office Depot on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale this past Saturday. The detective, who was with his young son, noticed that Jultak was carrying a visible gun, had on a badge, and was wearing a black BSO shirt (one of the older models with former sheriff Ken Jenne's name on it). The detective was suspicious so he followed Jultak outside and watched him climb into his Corvette.

"The detective had his child with him so he wasn’t going to confront someone that is armed in the store," Leljedal said. "So he discreetly followed him outside and took down his tag number. When the detective came back to work [on Monday] he ran the tag and saw who it was and reported it to the state attorney."

The badge, Leljedal told me, wasn't a sheriff's office badge. He says it's believed it was an SAO badge. But it's hard to confirm all of this because the detective never so much as filed a report on the matter.

I told Leljedal that it seemed that a lot of, um, professional courtesy was extended to Jultak. If he'd been a normal citizen, he probably would have been charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer, no? Here's the law:

843.08 Falsely personating officer, etc.—A person who falsely assumes or pretends to be a sheriff, officer of the Florida Highway Patrol, officer of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, officer of the Department of Environmental Protection, officer of the Department of Transportation, officer of the Department of Financial Services, officer of the Department of Corrections, correctional probation officer, deputy sheriff, state attorney or assistant state attorney, statewide prosecutor or assistant statewide prosecutor, state attorney investigator, coroner, police officer, lottery special agent or lottery investigator, beverage enforcement agent, or watchman, or any member of the Parole Commission and any administrative aide or supervisor employed by the commission, or any personnel or representative of the Department of Law Enforcement, or a federal law enforcement officer as defined in s. 901.1505, and takes upon himself or herself to act as such, or to require any other person to aid or assist him or her in a matter pertaining to the duty of any such officer, commits a felony of the third degree ...

Okay, Jultak might be able to squirm out of that one because he didn't commit an overt act pretending he was a sheriff's deputy. So I'll give BSO a pass on it. Here's what Leljedal said: "There may not be a crime there. There doesn’t seem to be any criminal intent. We run into this with other people who pick up these shirts and wear them. Are they impersonating?"

There is one mystery remaining about Jultak's actions, though. The sheriff's intelligence bulletin claims that Jultak claimed he was acting as "courthouse security." Might that be the act that would solidify the crime? Well, we don't know because Leljedal says he's not sure what that's about.

But it wasn't so much the shirt that was troublesome. More the exposed gun and badge. And that's where I believe BSO definitely and positively cut Jultak a break.

Leljedal noted that prosecutors are allowed to carry guns, which is true, but they are supposed to be concealed. It's not legal to for an unauthorized person -- including a prosecutor -- to walk around openly carrying a gun in a holster. Throw in the ominous-looking black BSO shirt and the badge and ... well, you know.

Here's the law on that one:

790.053 Open carrying of weapons.--

(1) Except as otherwise provided by law and in subsection (2), it is unlawful for any person to openly carry on or about his or her person any firearm or electric weapon or device.

(2) A person may openly carry, for purposes of lawful self-defense:

(a) A self-defense chemical spray.

(b) A nonlethal stun gun or dart-firing stun gun or other nonlethal electric weapon or device that is designed solely for defensive purposes.

(3) Any person violating this section commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

I submit that you or I, had we been caught doing what Jultak was doing, MIGHT have been charged with impersonating an officer and SURELY would have been charged with openly carrying a firearm. To be frank, I believe, had the decision been mine, I would have charged him only with the second-degree misdemeanor and been done with it.

But BSO decided to let Satz handle the matter administratively (leading to Jultak's suspension).

Beyond the apparent preferential treatment given to Jultak, there's still a raging question: Why was a 63-year-old man playing cops and robbers at Office Depot on his day off?

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman