15 years ago
SARASOTA -- John Coffin won't spend any more time in jail for beating up two
sheriff's deputies inside his house, striking one in the head with a Taser
gun he took from the other.
Circuit Judge Rick De Furia said at Coffin's trial Tuesday that he doesn't
condone the violence against the deputies.
But Coffin, 56, had a right to defend his family and property because the
deputies had no right to be in Coffin's house in the first place, De Furia
"Law enforcement was responsible for the chain of events here," De Furia
said. "I think in situations like this, officers become so frustrated they
go beyond what the law allows them to do."
The fight started when Coffin heard his wife screaming in pain, went into
the garage and saw two deputies arresting her on the floor.
The deputies were trying to serve Coffin with civil papers that had been
given five days earlier. They had entered the garage even though they did
not have a search warrant or arrest warrant.
And they arrested Coffin's wife, Cynthia, 50, on obstruction charges even
though she had no obligation to follow their orders to bring her husband
"The most critical is the fact the officers broke the law by stopping the
garage door from going down," and then entering the garage, De Furia said.
A jury was picked for the trial Monday. But the judge granted a motion by
Coffin's attorneys, Derek Byrd and Brett McIntosh, and acquitted John Coffin
on five of six felony charges Tuesday morning.
Coffin pleaded no contest to the remaining charge of taking a Taser gun from
one of the deputies during the fight.
Before handing down the sentence, De Furia asked how long Coffin spent in
jail after his initial arrest.
"You spent eight days in the Sarasota County jail," De Furia said. "That's
your sentence. No probation."
Relatives applauded, and Coffin walked out of the courthouse with only a
$358 bill for court costs. The sentence surprised even defense attorneys,
who had suggested De Furia sentence Coffin to probation.
Prosecutors had asked for more than a year of prison time because of "the
totality of the case" and the injuries to deputies James Lutz and Stacy
Ferris, whose name is now Stacy Brandau.
The two deputies testified about their injuries Tuesday -- three blows to
the head with the butt of the Taser gun knocked Lutz unconscious.
"I just ask that he doesn't get away with this," Brandau told the judge.
Assistant State Attorney Jeff Young told the judge the case "could have been
over in five seconds" if the Coffins "had simply come out and cooperated."
"That is a man who took it upon himself to beat up two police officers,"
De Furia said that while he believed the deputies' mistakes were not
intentional, the Coffins had every right to lock doors, try to close their
garage door and not cooperate.
"What took place in the house was unfortunate," De Furia said, "but Mr.
Coffin ... had a right to resist."