Lawrence Destefano and The Baker Act

Lawrence Destefano and The Baker Act
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The Baker Act

Enacted in 1971, the Baker Act is a statute of the state of Florida aimed at protecting the rights of persons with mental illness along with maintaining public safety.

The Baker Act allows for involuntary examination (what some call emergency commitment). It can be initiated by judges, law enforcement officials, or mental health professionals. There must be evidence that the person a) has a mental illness (as defined in the Baker Act) and b) is an immediate harm to self, to others, or self neglectful (as defined in the Baker Act). Examinations may last up to 72 hours and occur in 100+ Florida Department of Children and Families designated receiving facilities statewide.

Lawrence Destefano and The Baker Act

Under mysterious circumstances, Lawrence Destefano was removed from his trial, arrested, and institutionalized.

TIMELINE

October 26, 2005
  • 8:30 a.m.
    • Mr. Destefano was on the stand wrapping up two days of testimony.
    • Following Mr. Destefano''s testimony were two character witnesses, Mieko Koller and Phillip Massey, who testified for about 2 1/2 hours on Mr. Destefano''s behalf
    • A 70 minute lunch break was called.
      • It was now approximately 3.75 hours since Mr. Destefano had testified.
  • 12:00 p.m. (approximately)
    • Returning from the lunch break, Mr. Destefano was accompanied by his associate, Mr. David GIll, a 27 year veteran as a Special Agent with the FBI.
    • Once the elevator doors opened to the floor on which the trial was taking place, four deputies immediately interceded and asked Mr. Destefano to accompany them.
      • Two of the deputies were Deputy Allen Pearl and Deputy Clinton Bivings.
      • Mr. Gill was prevented from accompanying Mr. Destefano as he was escorted by the deputies into an adjacent courtroom.
    • Mr Destefano recalls:
      • "The courtroom was empty except for two more deputies waiting inside."
      • "I was escorted past the bar and into the well of the courtroom. Deputy Pearl approached me from behind, grabbed my hair and slammed my head onto one of the counsel tables."
      • "I was surrounded by five other deputies as Deputy Pearl searched and handcuffed me."
      • "I was lifted up off the table and slammed back down when Deputy Pearl grabbed and twisted my testicles. Deputy Pearl then leaned in and whispered in my ear,
        • ''Who the f**k do you think you are? You think you can come into our house and piss all over us you little f**k? Let''s see what you''re going to do now.''"
          • Mr. Destefano recalls this as a direct quote which he consciously memorized.
  • 12:30 p.m. - Court resumes
    • Before the jury was brought in after the lunch break, Judge Roche speaks to the attorneys.
      • "The deputies have Baker Acted your client."
    • As everyone was trying to figure out what to do next, a two minute recess was requested by Mr. Osborne.
      • During this recess Mr. Osborne had all four of Mr. Destefano''s associates and attorneys leave the courtroom and try to find out Mr. Destefano''s status within the Baker Act.
    • Judge Roche acted as if she had no jurisdiction over Mr. Destefano being Baker Acted.
    • Mr. Osborne requested that the Court not have the Directed Verdict motions (DV) without his client being in court.
      • What is a Directed Verdict?
        • In a case in which the plaintiff has failed to present, on the facts of his case, proper evidence for jury consideration, the trial judge may order the entry of a verdict without allowing the jury to consider it.
    • When the jury was brought into the courtroom, the Judge told them that they were to draw no conclusions from the absence of any person at counsel table for whatever reason.
    • Mr. Osborne decided to show a two plus hour video deposition from Dr. Krop.
      • According to sources in the courtroom gallery, the jury was visibly upset that Mr. Destefano was not in the courtroom during the lengthy, two plus hours of Dr. Krop''s dry and technical testimony.
    • Although Mr. Osborne asked the Court earlier in the day not to have the DV motions without his client being in the courtroom, he now stipulated to the entry of a Directed Verdict as to the Defendant, Adventist Health System.
      • Adventist Health Systems is the multi-billion dollar parent company of Florida Hospital, Adventist Care Centers, and Sunbelt.
      • Since all of Mr. Destefano''s associates and other attorneys were out of the courtroom, no one knew, until six months later when they obtained the final transcript of the trial, that Mr. Osborne took away Mr. Destefano''s right of suing the multi-billion dollar Adventist Health Systems.
        • It has been suggested by some that many persons had a hand in getting Mr. Destefano Baker Acted so that Mr. Osborne could get a Directed Verdict for Adventist Health Systems, and therefore hinder the jury from rendering a multi-million dollar verdict.
  • 12:55 p.m. (circumstances happening at the same time court is back in session)
    • Mr. Destefano was arrested and Baker Acted.
      • Orange County Sheriff''s Arrest Report
      • Baker Act Form
        • On this form, deputy Bivings stated that Mr. Destefano said in his testimony that morning that "...someone will get hurt. This incident will get you killed."
        • Mr. Destefano''s actual testimony.
    • Deputies Pearl and Bivings took Mr. Destefano out through a back door of the courtroom which led to an elevator that brought them down to the first floor.
    • Mr. Gill states he went into the courtroom to look for Mr. Destefano but it was empty. A deputy told Mr. Gill that Mr. Destefano had been Baker Acted.
    • On the first floor, Mr. Dominic Sagorski, an attorney from Mr. Destefano''s team, noticed Deputy Pearl escorting Mr. Destefano out of the courthouse in handcuffs.
    • Mr. Gill recalls:
      • Mr. Sagorski: "Hey Allen, what''s the charge?"
        Deputy Pearl: "Baker Act."
        Mr. Sagorski: "What''s this about?"
        Deputy Pearl: "It came from the top."
    • When Mr. Destefano arrived at the hospital facility on Wednesday, October 26, he was informed by the facility administrator that the psychiatrist in charge, Dr. Gerald Balsam, would not be coming back to the facility until Friday, October 28.
      • While the administrator looked at the Baker Act form the deputies filled out, he asked Mr. Destefano why he had made these threats.
      • Mr. Destefano asked the administrator to look at the transcript because that is not what he said.
        • The administrator spoke to Mr. Destefano''s associates and attorneys who were waiting outside the facility.
        • Mr. Conway left the facility to return to the courthouse to obtain an emergency transcript of the morning''s proceedings.
    • When Mr. Conway returned to the facility, the administrator read the transcript and put a call into Dr. Balsam on Mr. Destefano''s behalf.
  • October 27, 2005 - 7:00 a.m.
    • Dr. Gerald Balsam arrives at the facility, reads the transcript, and asks Mr. Destefano what he meant by his testimony.
      • Mr. Destefano explained that he wanted the defendants to think twice about spewing allegations because if they did this to someone who was unstable, that person might hurt someone. He said he was trying to explain that to the Court when his testimony was stopped.
    • Dr. Balsam releases Mr. Destefano.
      • Discharge of Baker Act within 24 hours of arrival.
  • 9:00 a.m.
    • Mr. Destefano arrived back in the courtroom.
      • According to sources in the courtroom gallery, the Judge, Mr. Osborne, and the Plaintiff''s counsels were visibly surprised by Mr. Destefano''s return to court before 72 hours (as prescribed by the Baker Act).

Home :: The Lawsuit :: Directed Verdicts
The Baker Act :: Trial Transcripts :: Appellate Briefs
The Nurses :: The Executives / Management
The Doctors :: The Lawyers :: Videos
Case File Documents :: Documentary NEW!