Judge John Bowman's Ex-Foster son Responds to Stalking Charge

Update 1/24: Harper has given a statement to police alleging abuse by Judge Bowman. Read the latest on the case.

We've learned a bit more about the case of Charles Harper, the 18-year-old who was accused of stalking his ex-foster dad, Broward County Circuit Court Judge John Bowman.

Harper is still being held in house arrest in Miami, and has not been formally charged by the state. He is currently without legal counsel. He was arrested on a charge of stalking Bowman at his house in Plantation, but a judge has not yet found probable cause to charge Harper.

Part of the reason for that is the surprisingly vague arrest report statement prepared by Plantation Police Officer James Annin (see bottom of post).

The statement does not allege any verbal threats or physical contact between the judge and his former foster son, whom Bowman now calls a

New Times has spoken with both Harper and Bowman about the incident. Based on both of their accounts, here's what we know:

Harper says he was in the neighborhood to visit a friend of his who lives on the same street as Bowman, and to stop by Plantation Diner, where he used to work. "They gave me free meals," he says. Harper and his half-brother, Joseph Gibbs, 26, were on their way up the street toward the bus stop on Broward Boulevard.

When they were across the street from Bowman's home, Harper called Bowman and told him, "Come outside." Harper says he wanted to speak with Bowman and get some of his possessions, which were still in Bowman's home.

Bowman says that Harper called him at least eight times. He explains what he meant when he told the police Harper called "from a bogus number": "He was punkin' us," says Bowman. "He had something called, what's it called, Caller Fake ID, and would use different numbers.... He called about eight times over about 20 minutes."

Bowman then called the police and says he did not use any special law enforcement contacts through his position as a judge. Bowman says Officer Annin had been called to the house in the past during domestic disturbances, and knew who Harper was and what he looked like. New Times is working to obtain records of past police calls to the house.

Harper and Gibbs say that they were waiting at the bus stop on Broward, about a hundred feet from the house, when a patrol car pulled up on the sidewalk next to them and two officers jumped out. "You're Charles Harper! I need to find a reason to arrest you. You're going to jail today," Harper and Gibbs say one of the officers shouted. They say that the other officer (presumably Annin) went to the judge's house to get a report.

Annin writes in the affidavit that Bowman told him there had been "previous incidents," but that no "injunctions" or restraining orders were currently active. Bowman maintains that he had good reason for calling: "He had told us, 'I'm going to call you, you don't know which call it's going to be -- and I'm going to kill you.'"

Still, the fact that the arrest report contains no evidence of violence or anything other than a phone call to the judge's house means that the state is still without a case against Harper while he sits on house arrest. There was an injunction hearing after the arrest, at which a Miami-Dade judge handed down a restraining order between Harper and the Bowmans. Harper, Bowman points out, was not present at that hearing.

Harper is, for the moment, without representation, and has no official contacts other than his parole probation officer. The public defender's office has moved to withdraw its attorneys from Harper's defense because of a fear that antagonizing Bowman would be harmful to its future cases. Public Defender Howard Finkelstein explains:

"Judge Bowman is part of the rotation of judges that sits in the magistrate courts [to decide whether to charge our clients]," he says. "If we represented Harper, part of our job could be to attack the judge, and that would not be in our clients' best interest."

Finkelstein says that the case will be forwarded to the state-run "conflict office," which serves as a secondary public defender's office for conflict-of-interest cases like this.

As for why the "stalking" arrest report didn't convince a magistrate judge of probable cause to charge Harper?

"Officer Annin didn't do a very good job," says Bowman.

Here's the statement:

I responded to [the address] reference Harper and Gibbs causing a disturbance in front of the victim's house. Officers stopped the parties approximately 100 feet from the house. I met with the victim who stated his ex-foster son Harper was calling his house from a bogus number telling the victim to step out. The victim observed the parties across the street from his residence on the phone.

The victim has documented incidents of harassing phone calls and requested extra watches for his residence involving Harper... Harper nor Gibbs could explain their purpose for being around the victim's house. Both parties were arrested...

After reading Gibbs his Miranda rights he advised they were in the area visiting friends, but could not explain why they stopped in front of the listed house and phoned the resident. The offenders were not able to contact the friend they claimed to be visiting. It should also be noted the arrestees are half brothers. Harper was charged with stalking and Gibbs was charged with loitering and prowling.

And a full version of the police report:

Charles Harper 12 22 10 Arrest Report

Follow The Juice on Twitter: @TheJuiceBPB.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph