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Trial for suspended Lehigh Acres fire commissioner continued again

November 29, 2017
By TIFFANY REPECKI ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The trial for a suspended Lehigh Acres fire commissioner has been postponed for a fifth time.

A felony case against Robert John Anderson, 51, of 1147 Cherokee Ave., was continued once again on Nov. 27, according to the State Attorney's Office. During trial call, it was rescheduled for Dec. 12.

"It was continued," Samantha Syoen, spokeswoman for the State Attorney's Office, said.

Article Photos

Robert John Anderson

On Nov. 9, the State Attorney's Office filed a motion to continue the trial after it reached out to its witnesses to ascertain their availability for the upcoming trial cycle. According to court documents, the state found that "several witnesses have unavailability spanning different timeframes" in the cycle.

It estimated that the only days available in the upcoming trial cycle would be Dec. 14-15.

"This case has received media attention, which could complicate jury selection and cause the trial to last anywhere from 3-4 days, depending on the amount of time it takes to select a jury," Assistant aState Attorney Joshua Fredrickson wrote. "Thus, the time constraints caused by witness unavailability for the upcoming trial cycle compels the State to request a continuance in this matter to the next trial cycle."

The state noted that the case has been up for trial calls several times beginning on April 4.

He noted that the last two continuances were at the request of the defense.

"This motion is made in good faith and not for the purposes of delay," Fredrickson wrote.

In the most recent incident, Anderson's trial was set to start on Oct. 25, but he did not show up as he was hospitalized at Gulf Coast Medical Center. The judge ordered for Anderson to be present the following day or provide documentation as to why he was not in court. If Anderson failed to do either, the judge was set to order a bench warrant.

On Oct. 26, Assistant Public Defender Travis Cary - Anderson's defense attorney - provided the court with medical documentation of an ongoing health issue that his client was being treated for.

Cary declined to comment at the time, citing that he is not permitted by office policy.

Anderson was charged in August 2016 for reportedly stealing riding lawn mowers from a Habitat for Humanity in North Fort Myers. The equipment had been a donation from the Lehigh fire district.

He is facing one count of larceny grand theft $300 less than $5,000.

According to officials, the charge carries a maximum of five years in prison.

In June, Anderson was charged in an unrelated incident with larceny grand theft $300 less than $5,000 and fraud swindle obtain property under $20,000. He is accused of fraudulently obtaining nearly $2,600 from a business that he provided technical support to and using the money to pay personal bills.

Anderson has pleaded not guilty to the charges in both cases.

On July 26, Gov. Rick Scott suspended Anderson from his seat on the Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District's board. Anderson had won his seat on the fire board while facing the 2016 charge.

Florida law states that an official who has been suspended may not perform any official act, duty or function, nor receive any pay or allowance, nor be entitled to any emoluments or privileges.

If the official is convicted of the charge, the governor will remove him or her from office and the person appointed to the temporary vacancy shall serve out the remainder of the term, according to the law. If an official pleads guilty or no contest, he or she will be considered convicted of the charge.

In the case that the official is acquitted, found not guilty or otherwise cleared of the charge, the governor will revoke the suspension and restore the official to his or her office, the law states.

For the case from 2017, a pretrial conference has been set for Dec. 19.



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