Patrick Gonzalez Jr: A Victim of a Corrupt Justice System
Published 1 month ago
on February 26, 2021
By Tyler Penske
Wrongful conviction is a vice that has eaten deep into the justice system. It is particularly rampant among those who do not have a voice or whose track record stands against them. Some people have made it their duty to speak for those who have no voice, like Jimmie Staley and the case of Patrick Gonzalez Jr.
Jimmie Lee Staley is a private citizen with a keen interest in seeing justice prevail. She has been resilient in the pursuit of justice for a case that combines so many impeding factors; from mishandling of evidence to misconduct to dozens of professionals and experts turning a blind eye to the evidence, or lack thereof, in a 2009 murder case in Florida that attracted the death penalty. The man in question, who is presently on Death Row, is Leonard “Patrick” Gonzalez Jr.
Throughout her investigation, Staley uncovered a lot of information—not limited to this specific case—about the corrupt system that led to the injustice. As more issues were discovered in his search, more victims came forward to tell their stories. It was not long before Staley established a pattern: all of them were victims of corruption—the same circumstances that led to the wrongful conviction of Patrick Gonzalez. Patrick was convicted in three days without any substantial evidence linking him to the crime.
According to the media, Patrick Gonzalez Jr. was turned in by his father Leonard “Lenny” Gonzalez Sr. However, this seems utterly implausible on closer observation. Lenny Gonzalez, a motorcycle accident victim, suffers from organic brain damage, dementia, and paranoia/schizophrenia, which are all documented. He received SSI total disability for his mental incapacity. Yet his “confession” was said to have been elicited by the state attorney personally in a one-on-one interview that is unrecorded.
It should be noted that this confession came after three days of deputies’ interviews and was used to precipitate a narrative touted by two young black kids attempting to avoid lethal injection. The entirety of the case against Patrick Gonzalez, Jr. is based on these three confessions—from a dementia-ridden father and two frightened kids aged 16 and 19. It is quite clear that the law enforcement personnel’s operation method, in this case, is unprecedented.
Additionally, Staley found out that an individual was found in possession of a safe, which was taken from the scene of the crime, along with bloodied clothes used in the murder, the murder weapon, and other weapons used by accomplices to the crime. This man was given immunity yet never made any statement in court to the effect that Patrick Gonzalez Jr. was the culprit. The consensus by law enforcement professionals outside of the case was that he is an ATF Criminal informant who was being protected, as he was known to be a runner of guns to Mexico.
Wrongful conviction is a misfortune with far-reaching consequences, casting a shadow over the excellent work done by all those who uphold the law. It should be alarming that one need not look very far to come across someone who got a raw deal with the police. Locally, there is a lot of animosity for Patrick Gonzalez Jr., who has an unfavorable history with the community in the Pensacola area. Staley herself stated, “I knew Patrick before this. I didn’t like him, but everyone deserves a fair trial, and he most definitely did not get a fair trial. I cannot be sure of his innocence, but I am sure there is no evidence that he was involved in this crime.”
Despite this, Staley appears to be the only person willing to step up to the plate and demand that true justice run its course. She noted that a segment of the local community might feel differently but are unwilling to speak up for fear of retaliation from the Sherrif, who refers to the conviction of Patrick Gonzalez Jr. as his crowning achievement. Staley is bent on ensuring that due process is not denied to Patrick Gonzalez Jr. and that justice prevails.
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When a person is murdered, standard procedure is to do a victimology profile. That includes understanding why victims were targets, what motivations were most likely, what was going on in their lives the day they were murdered. Another relevant factor is, why were they killed there? Why was this location chosen? The obvious answers would be.
a.) that is where things of value were to be taken
b.) to send a message that no one is safe even in their home
d.) controlled environment.
Opportunity is ruled out because this wasn’t a spontaneous crime.
Also, why was THIS method and tHIS mode of murder used? why so many guns? why the manpower?
a.) guns used for assured kill
b.) manpower of that magnitude needed for crime
- elderly man and wife in environment not fortified seems overkill
- number of assailants increases likelihood of capture due to increased chance of DNA, hair etc.
- number of assailants increases likelihood someone will tell someone else who will snitch
- number of assailants that were not loyal to one another due to short or non-existent relationships increases likelihood of capture for self-preservation–to reduce pressure on themselves if caught
- not insuring camera system was off-careless. number of men could have ensured that camera was not an issue
No real need to have 5 men enter to subdue elderly man and woman who were not armed and not suspecting anything. Couldn’t one, maybe two men have entered–zip-tied them for the remaining to come in carry safe. That way if something went wrong, only the 1st two would be inside the residence. Again, for a planned, military style approach, strangers with no real bonds to each other wouldn’t have been used. Extra measures would have ensured video cameras were taken care of. By the way, if this was a robbery, why not knock Byrd off leaving or coming in a car? He’d have the money with him and be an easier target. Also why leave the briefcase behind if there was that much money in it. They walked right passed it, supposedly with the knowledge of its contents.
Forget all the confessions. They only muddle the facts and contradict the evidence. No one tells a story that fits the physical evidence or the known concrete facts of how the murder went down. There are variations that cannot be squared. Who was where, for example? Who drove? What happened after? Not one of the 4 people who talked have a story that is consistent with each other or the crime scene evidence. So disregard those entirely and focus on just what can be seen, smelled, or touched.
The family had the most to gain. The family was never properly investigated. The son had gunshot residue. It’s Ockham’s razor. “A principle from philosophy. Suppose there exist two explanations for an occurrence. In this case, the simpler one is usually better. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is.” (Source: Wikipedia)
No matter what you believe happened in this case, the one thing that cannot be disputed is that this case was not properly investigated. That begs the question of why? Why not rule out all the possibilities before taking the case to trial or settling into one theory that is outside the logical flow of everything known about how and why murders happen?
Next step: Look at anomalies in investigation. What happened that shouldn’t have happened? What didn’t happen?
Transcript of Bill Eddins speaking at the Rotary Club on Sept 17, 2013
….They located the owner of the red van as a result of that being publicized or where the red van was. It was Leonard Gonzalez Sr. On Sunday, he was brought in, July 12th, he was brought in to the Sheriff’s office to be questioned and we expected that..we had developed enough evidence to charge him with accessory after the fact. We expected that is what he would be charged with. We developed evidence that he had tried to put on some paint, he started painting and had it hid behind his house. I decided to contact the Sheriff’s office and I went down to the Sheriff’s office and determined while he was talking to them he was not being honest. He was BS’ing them were the words I used. Paraphrasing. I asked the Sheriff if he thought it might be helpful if I spoke with him. He decided it would do no harm. I decided I would speak with him. So I did and indicated to him who I was and that I was the State Atty and that my office would be prosecuting these cases. And that we knew there were a large number of people involved based on what we’d seen on video tapes and we knew sooner or later some of them would talk and confess and tell on everybody else. I knew he wasn’t being truthful. I wasn’t gonna be there but 5 more minutes and our office decided whether-who we will seek the death penalty against. And I found in matters of this nature that it is always better to tell the truth. The train is leaving the station and if you want to get on it all you got to do is tell the truth. He started BS’ing me (I’m paraphrasing). I told him I was leaving and I walked outside. I told the Sheriff and the Sheriff and I discussed it. Sheriff Morgan and I agreed we could arrest him for accessory after the fact anyway since he obviously wasn’t gonna talk. A high bond was placed on him and we went back and told the investigators what we had done. One of the senior investigators got very upset and said “now you ruined it, we will never solve this case. This man is not gonna talk. WE could have got him to talk and here you go ruining it”. Just as he said that, a knock at the door came and the man said Mr. Gonzalez wants to know if you would possibly come back and speak to him again. So I did. I expected him to confess. He was an older man who lived a hard life and I expected him to tell me about being accessory after the fact, but when I sat down and gave him his rights, he let out the whole story. …from there we were able to round up the rest of the people. Some of them confessed; some didn’t
If this “confession” lead to the other arrests, wouldn’t it be ironic if this confession proved to be fruit from the poison tree? The poison tree being this inadmissable confession.
People with mental disabilities have often falsely confessed because they are tempted to accommodate and agree with authority figures. Further, many law enforcement interrogators are not given any special training on questioning suspects with mental disabilities. An impaired mental state due to mental illness, drugs or alcohol may also elicit false admissions of guilt.
Above is the Social Security Determination that establishes Leonard Gonzalez Sr. as suffering from dementia, concentration problems, memory impairment, and paranoid personality disorder, “Having marked difficulty in maintaining social function and deterioration of adaptive behavior”.
“After careful consideration of the full record” an Administrative Law Judge declared Mr. Gonzalez Sr. totally disabled under the standards defined by the SSA due to organic brain injury and mental impairment resulting from that injury. Gainful employment for any sustained period is unforseeable. Dementia and memory impairment are acknowledged and documented.
Being in Mr. Gonzalez Sr.’s presence, NO ONE can have the sense that he wasn’t mentally impaired. It is reported by family that on the day in question, that he was arrested, Mr. Gonzalez Sr. had been up for 3 days, smoking crack. Again making him far from sound mind and less apt to cover the deficiency he had psychologically and mentally, yet, Mr. Eddins took a confession of this man which led to 7 more arrests.
This confession is tainted by the knowledge of this man’s incapacity. All info stemming from this “confession” should have been inadmissable and this may have saved Mr. Gonzalez Sr.’s life as well as Pamela Wiggins.
Then as the investigators follow the breadcrumbs to Palm Court to Leonard Gonzalez Sr., lo-and-behold, there sits a red van that has been covered in an attempt to disguise it. Which van is the crime van? The one found on the BOLO that was Mr. Hartsfield’s old van who he says he sold to Terri Poff for her son Patrick Poff aka Patrick Gonzalez Jr. that was being housed at the property of Lenny Gonzalez Sr. where it had not moved for weeks. So when investigators follow the trail to Sr’s home, there is another van there. But if they have the van found by Smith then what necessity is there to take this van into custody, because based on VIN numbers they are supposed to be ONE van.
Lest we not forget Blue Markham’s statement prior to any of the vans mentioned are located claims that he sold the van in the video footage to one, Cab Tice from the lot owned by Billings a few weeks before the murder.
Now the van supposedly taken from Lenny’s home was destroyed as it was damaged by water in the jail explosion. The secret of the van may never be unearthed.
Throughout the years since these horrific murders in Pensacola, thousands of documents, articles, interviews and depositions have been released to the public, but none of them encompass the truth revealed by the facts of the case. Surprisingly, all the exculpatory evidence as to the identity of the 5 men that bombarded the Billings’ compound on that July night, has never been covered in the media.
Sheriff David Morgan, contrary to all guidelines of criminal investigations, dumped boat loads of information about the case into the public domain before the investigation had evaluated such data or even vetted it for truth. This immediately spun into storm of chaos and confusion within the Sheriff’s office, within the investigation and naturally within the media. The most astonishing thing is that there is a statement of an investigator, who is currently in Internal Affairs, that a narrative of what happened to the Billings’ that fateful night was released to the national media with a complete background on 8 people. This was prior to the actual information received by the investigators working on the case or had been established as leads. The narrative released to the press was from the Sheriff’s office and included booking photos and driver’s license photos of people. How could the Sheriff’s office work up a narrative and press package with pictures when the actual investigators had not heard the names of the people being sold to the public as the killers?
Another fun fact is that the beat up red van in the video was found at a weigh station in Alabama, which is consistent with the escape route that deputies theorized. Until someone comes forward to say that van may have been his van. James Hartsfield is concerned his old van sold to Terri Poff was the van in the video. So as deputies follow up that lead and track the van in question to Leonard Patrick Gonzalez Sr’s home on Palm Court. But “surprise”, there sits another van. One van at the weigh station and now one in the yard of Gonzalez Sr. They are similar vans but there are distinct differences in mirrors and doors. What happens next? Gonzalez Sr’s van is taken into custody because he is acting weird. The weigh station van disappears. Baldwin County deputies who reported the abandoned vehicle say it was never impounded by them. It was assumed Escambia County would take care of it, but in the meantime, the van disappears from the weigh station. “Poof”. No more second van.
Now all this is known to everyone surrounding the investigation within 72 hours of the murder. Yet no one reported any of these things. Rick Outzen, his own words in telephonic interview was on the scene at the Billings’ house, has not reported any of this to the public. He even recalls Ashley Markham screaming in the driveway of the Billings home that night that “He did this” pointing to her brother, Justin Billings, who later tested positive for gunshot residue on his hands and no emotion while talking to deputies moments after the horrific murder of his parents. How does a second van and complete backstory of a crime get past the fact checkers at the Sheriff’s Office? Well, that brings up another point. According to a sworn deposition by Chris Baggett, a deputy involved in the investigation, there was no true head of the investigation. There are at least 6 investigators who are not briefing each other on their own knowledge of the crime while they are each working different angles. There is no logging of who interviewed who and when. There were many interviews with Bill Eddins (State Attorney) and ECSO officials with suspects that were improper because an attorney was requested and that request was ignored as well as numerous interviews that are never recorded. When asked if anyone was in charge of making sure all the statements of the people being interviewed was recorded, there is an answer of “No” by more than one deputy. People were walking in and out of interviews. Chris Baggett had info on the van but he did not have time to brief Lee Tyree who was talking to the suspects. So he didn’t have Tyree’s knowledge from the interview and Tyree didn’t have his knowledge of the van.
With all this chaos, a story suddenly emerges to the national news of what happened. How is that possible when there was so much disorganization? There are pictures of people who aren’t even known to the investigators on television with a story outlining their roles. What kind of Sheriff’s department is running this town?
So many missteps that it would make OJ Simpson’s case look more credible than this. No reporting of facts. Leaking stories that cannot be corroborated. Not even knowing which deputy, official or random citizen had been allowed to talk to the suspects. No honoring of the invocation of counsel. No REPORTING OF THE MADNESS THAT WAS THE SHERIFF’S OFFICE. Yet David Morgan looks nice in his press conference, but the paperwork that was on his desk did not support a word he spoke within the first 5 days of the case. Anybody with a conscience on the fringe of this could see this was a dog and pony show. Yet no one had the guts to say anything against the Sheriff. Deputies were understandably wary of ratting out their boss but what about the media? What about Mr. Outzen? He had all these facts. He even told Damien Cave of the New York Times on August 19th, 2009, he was committed to finding out what happened in this case. The article titled, “Blogger Stirs a City by Suggesting That a Florida Couple’s Murder Was a Contract Killing”, touts Outzen integrity in journalism and his family legacy of fighting against political wrongs done in the civil rights era. Yet he chose to not address a single discrepancy mentioned above to people of Escambia County.
Why is that?
I absolutely love this brief (parts of it anyway)…The first 29 pages are just the noise of the case. It is the “he said-he said” chaos that is wholly inadmissible when dealing with co-conspirators when it cannot be independently corroborated by other evidence, which doesn’t include other co-conspirator testimony. (2 or 30 co-conspirators does not evidence make without tangible evidence of guilt)
The basis of this appeal is simply these 2 issues :
- Did the Lower Court (Judge Geeker) err in denying Gonzalez Jr’s claim that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to properly file for a change of venue due to the saturation of Escambia County with prejudicial & inflammatory pretrial publicity concerning this case making the chances of a fair, impartial trial, impossible?
- Did the Lower Court (Judge Geeker) err in denying Gonzalez Jr’s claim that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to CHALLENGE THE GRAND JURY INDICTMENT FOR THE GROUNDS THAT ESCAMBIA COUNTY SHERIFF DAVID MORGAN ENGAGED IN OUTRAGEOUS GOVERNMENTAL MISCONDUCT BY IMPROPERLY INFLUENCING THE GRAND JURY WHO INDICTED GONZALEZ JR?
Here are the highlights:
Yesterday was the 8th anniversary of the most infamous murder in Pensacola history. Two citizens of Escambia County were ambushed on a quiet summer night inside their own home. Seven people were arrested in break-neck time. The case was wrapped up with all the elements tucked into a nice narrative that made everyone feel as if they were safe again.
In the last few years, 2 of the people arrested for the crime died in jail of excruciating deaths; both literally wasting into nothingness. The “happily ever after” Ashley & Blue Markham, are embroiled in a low key divorce that was originating prior to the death of Ashley’s parents. The looming divorce was sidelined to make the facade of a loving family play better in the media–local and national.
The theater at each and every trial, as well as each of the 2 compassionate release hearings were full of drama from the ever sobbing Ashley Markham and her doting husband, Blue.
As for the main face in the media for this crime, David Morgan has proven himself to be an absolute buffoon and more worthy of Barney Fife’s one bullet than a sheriff’s star. Morgan has turned Escambia County into a joke on a national scale, with proclamations of witches killing citizens, the youth of the community being “Super-Predators”, likening his “Welsh-ness” to “Black-ness”, and even that the motive of the murder of a child on his watch was “not his concern”. Most recently, after being completely worked around in a multi-agency murder case, he declared in a press conference a nonsensical assertion about the rate of “solved” cases in the area. With all the buffoonery that has come since this case, looking back, doesn’t the pattern of forcing a scenario despite the facts, fit?
To anyone who has any knowledge of criminal justice, law enforcement or even people who have watched a cop show, David Morgan makes every person trying to make the county a better place, look like some sort of “Jackass” version of policing, because he is supposed to be their leader, not their mascot.
In the Billings case, someone on the inside took the easy way out by going after the “robbery” angle rather than the most legitimate answer being, Billings was killed for some interaction in his business, illegal business. When you play with cartels and then are murdered, should anyone be shocked? The fact this case was investigated excluding the theory that business associates of either his previous strip club affiliation, or crossed colleagues and/or ripped off clients from his “Buy Here, Pay Here” lot. Even the most traditional motive, greed of someone looking to inherit was NEVER INVESTIGATED.
Veteran law enforcement from ECSO and outside agencies have come forward to say that they knew this case was improperly handled from seeing it handled from a perspective different than that of the average citizen. The magnitude of the case (multiple agency involvement, number of suspects & people of interest) was such that there was no scenario, even with confessions, that could have been adequately investigated to rule out other theories and suspects of this heinous murder. A narrative was formed that was clean and fit the public relations option the agency took in keeping Bud Billings’s life “clean” when it was far from that. Seven people with sketchy, questionable or who were black, were arrested, bullied into confessions to stay off that pesky death sentence needle. None of the stories match up and so many loose ends, simply dropped while national media watching, some of which are criminal justice experts were fawning over Morgan for his stellar performance as a new Sheriff in a complex double murder. He took that praise and spun it to his own political gain.
Ashley & Blue got the bulk of their parents’ estate, cutting out siblings like Justin and Kristen. They also took over the disabled kid cash grab with the number of kids ( roughly $3000 a month per child in state assistance), along with the predatory car lot. To top it all off, Ashley got Oprah’s sympathy as well as the infamous “hug” by Sheriff Morgan.
Unfortunately, the justice in the Billings case will be reserved for now, but this is temporary. The truth is still out there with no statute of limitations on murder (Thank God). As long as I have breath, David Morgan is my focus. His downfall is my goal, not by making “salacious” posts, but for unveiling this charlatan for what he is–Barney Fife with one bullet. He has effectively run the ECSO into a place of ruin that many cops say will take YEARS to remedy.
So in the long line of people who cashed in, exploited and turned a blind eye in the Billings case, I want to welcome Bill Richbourg to the cast of characters who should be on the other side of the bars that they put their clients in. Mr. Richbourg could arguably be the most deplorable of the attorneys who rolled over and played dead in this case. Mr. Richbourg was hired by Gary Sumner to represent him. He paid Mr. Richbourg. For 6 weeks seemingly, work was done to further the defense case for Sumner. But on April 25, 2011, the day set for the jury selection, Mr. Richbourg tells Sumner (as they approach the courtroom) that he could not win this case, Sumner had no option but to take a plea. Richbourg strong-armed a disadvantaged young black man. Then the state had the gall to sue Sumner for the time they wasted for trial.
But the best part here is that Richbourg had an agenda from the onset of representing Sumner. He represented Bud Billings in the adoption fraud suit that somehow left the “stolen” child with the captor. Richbourg organized that circa 1989-90.
Can you say CONFLICT???? Representing a man that killed a past client and then tanking the representation? Cheryl Barnes, Gary Sumner’s mother, should be suing this man on Gary’s behalf. Not only unethical, but it rises to level of criminal when he forced Gary into signing away his life rather than actually representing him. Any civil rights lawyers out there should be on top of this.
But the people who failed to do their job in this case is so numerous. Richbourg is just ONE of the highly respected attorneys who dropped the ball.
Tony Henderson forced Lenny Gonzalez into his plea and signed off on the man’s legal mental competence, despite the SSI ruling that states the man has brain damage, dementia, and numerous mental health issues. Also his VAN WAS INOPERABLE. That was a defense within itself, but Henderson managed to negotiate Lenny’s fate which led to his death. Shouldn’t that be beyond malpractice as well?
What about the public defenders who handled Florence & Thornton? There was a huge case for coerced confessions but they never represented their clients. They took the money the state paid them and walked those boys into prison. Now their lives are cast in stone. Statistics say that uneducated black men imprisoned early (18-25) build “criminal capital”. They turn prison into a community that they are comfortable with, can network in, to feel a sense of inclusion into SOMETHING. It is the same psycho-social phenomenon that draws people into gangs. That is on Joel M. Cohen (Florence’s public defender), & Cheryl Alverson (Thornton’s public defender).
Richbourg has a great deal of company in his criminality. I hope to see them punished just like Eddins, Geeker & Sir David.