There will be no charges in the battery case against Seminole County Tax Collector Ray Valdes, according to State Attorney Phil Archer on Monday.
Valdes was investigated by the police last month after an altercation at a GOP event where he grabbed the wrist of blogger Jacob Engels, allegedly in an attempt to stop Engels from recording him.
Engels, according to Archer, was clearly trying to instigate a confrontation for the sole purpose of recording a violent reaction.
“It is clear from reviewing the videos and statements of all involved that Mr. Engels was seeking a confrontation with Mr. Valdes in order to obtain a negative reaction which could be recorded,” Archer wrote. “The political undertones in this case cannot be ignored, nor can the fact that Mr. Engels hired an attorney and held a press conference within 24 hours of the incident.”
Archer goes on to say that Valdes is not without blame in the incident either.
“As a long time public official, he should understand he is subject to public questioning even if it is unwanted, and especially when it involves behavior that is ethically questionable and fair game for public discussion.”
Archer concludes that the matter would be best resolved in a civil court, where both parties could use private attorneys rather than the criminal justice system.
Engels had been trying to ask Valdes questions regarding Valdes’ alleged hiring of his own relatives for positions in local government offices. Valdes claimed he had never done that and that Engels was a “liar,” and then was shown on video taking Engels’ phone by force and walking away.
Engels’ attorney, Ken Lewis, had previously requested that the case be turned over to a special prosecutor appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. Upon receiving word of Archer’s decision Monday, he said Engels was disappointed.
“My client Jacob Engels is disappointed by the decision of the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office,” Lewis wrote. “We thank the Altamonte Police Department for their professionalism and thoroughness in their investigation. Nobody in a position of trust should ever believe that physical action is an acceptable response for being asked tough questions by a journalist.”