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Andrew Warren vacates 17 convictions connected to three fired Tampa police officers

It’s the first time such an investigation resulted in overturning convictions.

The Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office will vacate 17 convictions associated with cases in which three former Tampa police officers who were later fired for a pattern of misconduct played a role.

It’s the first time an investigation led by the prosecutor’s office in Hillsborough County resulted in overturning convictions, according to Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.

Warren’s decision came after the State Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit investigated the cases with input from the agency’s Independent Review Panel. Warren concluded his Office no longer had confidence in the integrity of the 17 convictions.

“One wrongful conviction is one too many. To let these convictions stand would undermine what we stand for: a fair and just system that improves public safety,” Warren said. “This decision reflects our commitment to root out wrongful convictions—where defendants are factually innocent, or where the process to obtain those convictions fails to satisfy basic principles of due process and fairness.”

The investigation surrounded Tampa police officers John Laratta, Mark Landry and Algenis Maceo who were the subjects of an internal investigation concerning failures by the officers to properly document detaining suspects and seizing evidence.

The Conviction Review Unit reviewed 225 cases involving the three officers and found 17 cases in which at least one of the three officers was an essential witness and where there was not other independent evidence to confirm those officers’ testimony.

“As soon as I was aware there was a potential problem with the officers’ credibility, I contacted the State Attorney’s Office, knowing the impact it might have on court cases,” said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan. “These are difficult decisions. However, State Attorney Andrew Warren and I agree that we have to do everything within our power to maintain public confidence in law enforcement and in our criminal justice system.”

The 17 vacated convictions include charges for possession of marijuana or controlled substances, carrying a concealed firearm or a felon in possession of a firearm. None of the cases involved victims, Warren said.

Each of the 17 defendants pleaded guilty to their charges, but none are currently incarcerated.

The CRU, led by Assistant State Attorney Teresa Hall, submitted its findings to the Independent Review Panel of former Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy A. Quince, former State Attorney and Appellate Judge E.J. Salcines, and former Appellate Judge Chris Altenbernd. The Panel approved the criteria and procedure used by the CRU to identify and review the cases recommended to be overturned. Warren made the final decision to vacate the convictions.

“The three officers’ credibility was severely damaged, and we could not in good faith let convictions stand based exclusively on their word,” Warren explained. “There was no credible evidence to sustain any of the convictions.”

Warren established the CRU in 2018 to reinforce trust in the criminal justice system by preventing, identifying, and remedying wrongful convictions.

The vacated convictions include:

1. State v. Jihad Amos, 18-CF-008774

2. State v. Ta’Quan Banks, 18-CF-001507

3. State v. Lejuan Dabor, 18-CF-012087

4. State v. Terence Doston, 18-CF-010864

5. State v. Xavier Grant, 18-CF-002315

6. State v. Isaiah Harrison, 18-CF-002560

7. State v. Laveal Highsmith, 18-CF-008318

8. State v. Antwon Holmes, 18-CF-001021

9. State v. Dallas Johnson, 18-CF-006628

10. State v. Richard Knecht, 18-CF-000304

11. State v. Milton Lane, 18-CF-001863

12. State v. Octavius Laundry, 18-CF-007536

13. State v. Jordan Morrell, 18-CF-015084

14. State v. Navaskey Sanders, 18-CF-013318

15. State v. Xavier Stephens, 18-CF-013381

16. State v. Adawnois Taylor, 18-CF-011732

17. State v. Rashard White, 18-CF-003079

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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