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The executive director of Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers is facing up to two weeks in jail on a contempt of court charge for stuffing an anonymous tip in his mouth instead of handing it over to a judge Friday.
Richard Masten was appearing before Judge Victoria Brennan when he refused to share information related to a tip in a cocaine possession case. Instead, he ate the paper containing the tip while sitting in court.
“We promise the people who give us information to solve murders, serious violent crimes in this community, that they can call with an assurance that they will remain anonymous and that nothing about them or their information would ever be compromised," he said. "The case today started creeping into that... it’s not going to happen on my watch and I understood the consequences."
Brennan was ordered to share the tip with the judge after an attorney for a woman charged with cocaine possession asked to see the information it contained. The attorney said his request had nothing to do with identifying the person behind the tip.
"In this case, there’s absolutely no information that I am looking for that has to do with the name or the identity of a tipster," Jean-Michel D’Escoubet said. "It's only the evidence that would be used in trial against her that the tip provided."
Even though he was asked only to show the content of the tip, not its source, to a judge so she could consider whether it should be shared with the defense, Masten said agreeing in this case would be a slippery slope.
“If you do it in this case, the question comes down the road, well you did it in that case why not this case," he said. "Well, I’m not going to do it in this case."
But the judge disagreed, and found him in contempt of court.
"The court would be remiss to turn a blind eye to a flagrant refusal to honor a court order, and give more value to an individual’s opinion on what is right, rather than to the dictates of the laws enacted by the people of Florida," Brennan wrote.
Masten is set to appear in court again next week, when he could be sentenced to up to two weeks in jail.
“I’ll bring a toothbrush and some pajamas in case I do," he said.
Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers was started in 1983 and has received tens of thousands of tips and led to thousands of arrests.