April 17, 2024

The family of a then-10-year-old perp-walked by Lee County Sheriff’s Office is calling for accountability weeks after their son was sentenced to probation for an alleged school threat.

The family of Daniel Marquez, 11, who was publicly perp-walked by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office last year and was sentenced to probation on a count of making a school threat, is asking for support and contributions to a legal fund, saying Marquez’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.

Judge Carolyn Swift found Marquez, of Cape Coral, delinquent in a bench trial in July, ruling that the texts he sent a school friend last year constituted a threat to conduct a school shooting. At a sentencing hearing Aug. 3, Swift said she was withholding adjudication in the case, meaning it will not count as a conviction as long as Marquez follows the terms of his probation.

Swift didn’t provide a length for Marquez’s probation. He wasn’t eligible for a jury trial, given his age.

Marquez’s family has said in a Change.org online petition that an organization that had promised last year to fund the minor’s legal expenses informed his father that they can’t afford to provide any additional support.

The terms of the probation require Marquez to follow a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, seek permission before leaving Lee County and write a 500-word essay on the definition of a school threat and what he learned from his case. It also includes standard prohibitions on drug use and weapon possession. The petition says that the length of the probation is indefinite.

“This case has been a difficult ongoing struggle for Daniel and his family, and right now is a pivotal moment,” the Change.org petition for Marquez reads in part.

The petition alleged the net effect of Swift’s actions will be to “turn Daniel into a pariah.”

“They are not corrective; they are punitive,” the petition says.

The petition, which launched Aug. 22, has collected more than 40,000 signatures.

Marquez sent text messages to a friend

Previous reports from this news organization point out that the case stems from text messages Marquez sent to a classmate last year, days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

One text said, “I scammed my friend” for $1 trillion, with an image of money captured from Google, according to a deputy’s report and images of the texts released by the sheriff’s office. Then “I bought this,” with another Google image of AR-style rifles. And then the phrase “get ready for water day” – an end-of-school event for students.

Marquez testified in his defense, saying that the image of guns was part of a joke about scamming a friend and using the money to buy expensive items. But Swift did not find Marquez convincing after he gave some inconsistent answers about the timing of the texts and the contents of his phone under cross examination.

Florida law prohibits making written threats to conduct mass shootings, even if the threat is not sincere.

Three hours after Marquez’s arrest, the sheriff’s office released a 22-second clip of a deputy walking the handcuffed middle schooler to a cruiser. Daniel’s face was visible, and his name and date of birth were included in the accompanying Facebook post. The video accrued hundreds of thousands of views.

Marceno then did a string of interviews with local, national and international news media, touting his commitment to zero-tolerance law enforcement in the wake of the Uvalde school massacre. While some outlets withheld Daniel’s identity, others broadcast his name and face.

The News-Press and Naples Daily News published his name with the consent of his father after Marceno released his identity.

In an interview, Marceno defended his decision to publicize Daniel’s identity, saying he had received support from parents who had used the incident to scare their own kids.

On July 15, 2022, an advocacy group representing Marquez asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Lee County Sheriff’s Office’s handling of the case.

Marquez’s attorney, Alex John Saiz, and the sheriff’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Tomas Rodriguez is a Breaking/Live News Reporter for the Naples Daily News and The News-Press. You can reach Tomas at TRodriguez@gannett.com or 772-333-5501. Connect with him on Threads @tomasfrobeltran, Instagram @tomasfrobeltran, Facebook @tomasrodrigueznews and Twitter @TomasFRoBeltran.

This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Family of Florida boy perp-walked by LCSO launches Change.org petition

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