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County commissioner goes on the defensive

Bigelow: Report ‘mischarterizes’ incident

November 14, 2012
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A Lee County commissioner claims that a sheriff's report falsely implies that he was involved in illegal activities Wednesday prior to being cited.

A Lee County deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for allegedly failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign at Nuna Avenue and Tice Street. Commissioner Brian Bigelow was riding in the passenger's seat.

David Alexander Henley, 18, of 3828 Arnold Drive, Fort Myers, who was driving the vehicle, did not have a valid license. He was charged with operate motor vehicle without a valid license, as well as drug possession charges.

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Brian Bigelow

Bigelow was given a criminal citation for allowing an unauthorized person to drive a motor vehicle, which he had reportedly stated was his rental car.

In his report, the deputy wrote that he observed the vehicle earlier that afternoon pull into the driveway of a reported drug house. A woman exited the home and approached the vehicle, reaching into the driver's window.

The deputy observed a possible hand-to-hand narcotics transaction.

A man in the passenger's seat exited, following the woman inside.

On Thursday, Bigelow released a prepared statement about the incident, acknowledging that he was cited for a second-degree misdemeanor.

"I will put faith in the legal system because there has been an effort to mischaracterize the events of that day and find me guilty of criminal acts merely by association," Bigelow said. "Those are false implications and I am confident that the truth will prevail, but must await my day in court."

He claims that after the vehicle was pulled over, Sheriff Mike Scott was made aware that he was an occupant and at least 10 officers responded.

"It became clear to me that this would not likely be handled as a routine allegation of a traffic offense," Bigelow said. "And, in fact, it was not."

The deputy reported that he smelled "an odor of burnt marijuana" upon approaching the vehicle. When questioned, Bigelow allegedly said a woman at the home that they were at had walked up to the car smoking marijuana.

The deputy told Henley that he was going to search the vehicle, at which point Bigelow reportedly claimed that the vehicle was his and that the deputy had no probable cause to do so. The deputy cited the smell of marijuana.

In his statement, Bigelow said that despite the deputy pulling over the vehicle for allegedly running a stop sign, Henley was never cited for that.

He added that Henley was never asked to perform a field sobriety test, despite the reported "odor" present and the fact that he was driving.

According to the deputy's report, Bigelow said he and Henley were at the home to let the resident see the dog that was in the back seat of the car. Bigelow allegedly stated that Henley had bought the dog from the woman.

On Thursday, Bigelow wrote that the deputies were offered evidence to support his explanation, "all of which were perfectly legal activities."

"Mr. Scott's deputy and supervising sergeant both ignored and refused to hear about or be shown physical evidence of those legal events," he said.

The deputy wrote in his report that Henley said they went to the home so he could buy weed, and that he bought weed for $25 from the woman there.

The deputy also noted that Henley reported that Bigelow told him to drive because he had to text. Henley said he did not have a license, but Bigelow allegedly stated that it was Henley's birthday tomorrow and "this is a gift."

At the scene, Bigelow denied any knowledge of what Henley had said.

In his statement Thursday, Bigelow called the statements allegedly made by Henley "not true," adding that they were "simply not made by my friend."

"We can all still hope that when we encounter a sworn officer of the law, that he or she will stick with the facts and only the facts, but that can not always be the case, especially if we have very public differences of opinion with the arresting officer's 'boss man,'" he wrote, referring to Scott.

The sheriff declined to respond Friday to Bigelow's statements.

"The probable cause statement speaks for itself," the LCSO said.

On Wednesday, Henley was found to be in possession of a small bag of marijuana and a small bag containing a white powder wrapped in a $20 bill. The items reportedly tested positive for THC and cocaine, respectively.

He was additionally charged with marijuana possess not more than 20 grams and cocaine possess. He has since been released from jail on $3,000 bond.

The deputy reported that during a search of the vehicle, two pills were found, which Bigelow claimed. They were a non-controlled substance.

Henley could not be reached for comment Friday.

He has a court appearance scheduled Dec. 10.

Bigelow's last day in office as a commissioner is Nov. 19. He tendered his resignation in May to unsuccessfully run for Lee County Clerk of Courts.



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