Saturday, July 14, 2012

Former attorney in trouble again

FORT WALTON BEACHEven with an October trial date on a racketeering charge looming, former Okaloosa County attorney R. Scott Whitehead continues to find ways to get in trouble.

Whitehead, who has been arrested twice in recent years on DUI charges and twice more on other alcohol-related violations, was taken into custody Wednesday for driving on a suspended or revoked license.

The arrest followed the investigation of an incident June 20 in the gated community of Magnolia Plantation in Bluewater Bay.

Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the scene of a car fire and arrived to find Whitehead, who denied having driven the burning black Lexus that belonged to his mother.

The investigation turned up videotape of Whitehead driving his mother’s car and a witness, a woman Whitehead had come from Alabama to visit.

Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar, who is leading the prosecution in the racketeering case against Whitehead, showed up at a first appearance hearing Thursday in Fort Walton Beach.

He asked County Judge Patricia Grinsted to hold Whitehead until a motion he had filed to revoke his pre-trial release order could be heard by Circuit Judge Michael Flowers in Crestview.

Edgar labeled Whitehead “a public safety risk.”

“We’re concerned if this is allowed to continue he’s going to kill somebody in the community or himself,” Edgar said. “We believe there is something going on with this defendant. We believe it is substance abuse.”

Attorney David Oberliesen, who is representing Whitehead, argued that his client was entitled to a bond on the misdemeanor charge he faces in Grinsted’s court.

He said Whitehead “would like a few days to address some affairs” and would report to custody if Flowers revokes his pre-trial release.

Grinsted agreed to allow bond, but ordered Whitehead fitted with a GPS monitor. Whitehead himself, who has been living in Alabama, agreed not to leave Okaloosa County until the motion before Flowers is heard.

Whitehead has been in and out of jail since October 2010, when County Judge T. Patterson Maney added nine months to a 12-month sentence because probation officers reported Whitehead had failed to submit to an alcohol test.

Whitehead’s legal problems started with two arrests in an eight-day period in 2009.  The first charge was for leaving the scene of an accident. The second was for speeding, driving with a suspended license and DUI.

He was twice charged with alcohol-related probation violations of those charges.  In May 2011, shortly before his release from jail, the state attorney’s office charged Whitehead with racketeering.

Charging documents alleged “aggravated white-collar crime and racketeering” — both first-degree felonies.

The documents said that from 2005 through 2010 Whitehead “illegally obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars from dozens of his former clients.”

Whitehead cheated at least 27 clients by billing them for services he didn't perform and making unauthorized charges on their credit cards, the charging documents said.

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