Broward County

Wounded Parkland student wants both prosecutor, public defender to bow out

Anthony Borges with his family at the hospital after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting. He underwent emergency surgery and is on a ventilator. His condition was upgraded from critical to fair on March 13, 2018.
Anthony Borges with his family at the hospital after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting. He underwent emergency surgery and is on a ventilator. His condition was upgraded from critical to fair on March 13, 2018. Facebook

A lawyer for a student wounded in the Parkland school massacre says he will again ask the judge hearing the case of the confessed shooter to order the prosecutor and public defender to resign from the case.

“This Thursday I am submitting a motion for the judge to reconsider her decision. I am explaining why she was wrong … and asking her to please correct it or we will appeal her ruling,” attorney Alex Arreaza told el Nuevo Herald.

Arreaza said Judge Elizabeth Scherer did not reply to his previous motion asking for the recusals, because of conflicts of interests, of the prosecutor and public defender in the case of Nikolas Cruz, who is accused of murdering 17 people and wounding another 15 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

Arreaza, who represents one of the wounded, students, Anthony Borges, said the two parties signed an “Agreement on Collaboration about School Discipline” for Broward County in 2016, along with representatives of the school board, the police and other agencies.

“They could be called as witnesses. By signing that agreement, they have a conflict of interest,” the lawyer told el Nuevo Herald as he stood with Borges’ father, Royer Borges.

The judge ruled that Arreaza lacked the legal standing to submit that motion.

“Her decision left us cold. She said, ‘I am not going to answer these motions because you don’t have the right to be heard by the court,’ ” he said. “I don’t understand how she can say that, when the constitution of the state of Florida gives us that right, gives it to everyone who is a victim.”

Royer Borges said that in trying to get to the bottom of what happened with Cruz, he and the lawyer learned that the agreement on school discipline allows “kids like Nikolas who have mental problems to study in a school with normal children.”

“When we submitted the motion to the court, the answer was that the father of a child who was shot five times does not have a voice,” he said. “That’s why we have to start to explain to everyone that we, civil society in general, should start to work to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Children like Cruz “are strewn all around Broward County. I don’t know if that program is being implemented in other counties,” he added. “As a community, we need to enforce our rights as parents and the rights of our children.”

Borges, 15, who was born in the United States of Venezuelan parents, is the last victim of the shooting still in a hospital. He is credited with saving the lives of fellow students by using his body as a shield as he and a teacher tried to shut the door to a classroom to keep Cruz from entering.

Arreaza said he was “shocked” when he discovered the agreement on school discipline as he researched the case. The agreement lists 10 misdemeanors and requires that students who commit them be placed in a special program.

“What happened at the school was that the program was applied in a liberal manner, and they were not arresting anyone,” he said.

Among the violations listed in the agreement are disrupting or interfering with school functions, theft of less than $300, vandalism of less than $1,000, disorderly conduct and drug possession.

School authorities knew Cruz had mental problems and was taking medications, Arreaza said.

“And what did they do? ‘Let’s put him in a normal school.’ What happened, and what was wrong, was that none of the parents knew that Nikolas Cruz has been released. And when he got there, there were a bunch of incidents,” Arreaza said. “By the time you saw Nikolas Cruz commit that barbarity, they had already had several problems with him.”

Royer Borges said the massive marches demanding more gun control “look very nice, very emotional … but that’s a long race.” The more immediate and dangerous problem, he added, is to “look for the people guilty of this and work to make sure it does not happen again.”

Arreaza agreed, saying the marches were “very pretty, very emotional … but we have to understand the dynamic of everything that’s happened here. Royer and his family, and I, come from a country, Venezuela, that has big marches but they do nothing.”

“We have to understand that he’s not optimistic that the marches will achieve anything,” the lawyer added. “He chose the country’s legal system to search for answers.”