The report produced by jurors, known as a presentment, will remain sealed for at least 15 days to give any person named in the document an opportunity to object to its findings.
A much anticipated report from a grand jury that has been reviewing Okaloosa County School District operations, policies and procedures was turned over to the State Attorney’s Office on Wednesday.
The grand jury, which convened Feb. 12, wrapped up its work faster than expected. It was scheduled to hear testimony through Friday.
The report produced by jurors, known as a presentment, will remain sealed for at least 15 days to give any person named in the document an opportunity to object to its findings, according to State Attorney Bill Eddins.
“We will wait 15 days, and it will then be determined whether further hearings are necessary,” Eddins said.
Eddins noted he could offer no further comment until the grand jury proceedings are completed. They won’t be considered closed until the report is released.
Prior to the grand jury convening, Eddins told the Daily News that the panel would hear much more than evidence of child abuse occurring within the special education departments of Kenwood Elementary School and Silver Sands School, and the district’s spotty record on disciplining employees.
“We are planning to present evidence of all aspects of the School District that have become public issues,” Eddins said Feb. 12.
Entering the grand jury proceedings, four current or former School District employees had been arrested. All have been tied to a 2016 case of alleged child abuse involving Noah Perillo, a 4-year-old non-verbal autistic boy at Kenwood.
Arrested on Sept. 13 last year were former Kenwood pre-K special education teacher Marlynn Stillions on four felony counts of child abuse without great bodily harm. Surrendering to warrants the same day were School District investigator Arden Farley and former Kenwood principal Angelyn Vaughan on multiple felony charges for failure to report suspected child abuse.
Another arrest came more than four months later on Jan. 29 when Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Stacie Smith also was charged with multiple felony counts of failure to report suspected child abuse. Smith has since resigned her position.
History provides a guide to what could happen with the grand jury report.
On Feb. 20, 2012, a grand jury convened to hear evidence of wrongdoing at the Crestview Police Department. Then-Police Chief Brian Mitchell and Joseph Floyd, the head of the city’s street crimes unit, were suspended March 1, four days before the grand jury handed down an indictment for Floyd on racketeering charges.
The 2012 grand jury wrapped up its work in Crestview the same day Floyd was indicted and taken into custody. March 21 was announced as the presentment’s tentative release date, following the required 15-day waiting period.
But Mitchell filed a last-minute objection to what was written about him in the report, and its release was put on hold “until such time as the court determines whether the presentment should be unsealed,” a 2012 news release from the State Attorney’s Office said.
Although Mitchell was fired March 27 and a judge denied his objections to the grand jury report March 28, the document was not released until May 3, nearly two months after the grand jury turned in its presentment.
The grand jury elected in its presentment not to call for Mitchell to be indicted, but did place a lot of blame for Floyd’s unlawful activities on the police chief.
Jurors called for Mitchell to be fired (as the mayor had already done by the time the report was released) and asked that his case be referred to the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.
The commission, a division of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, has the authority to revoke police certification.
Mitchell eventually was arrested on official misconduct charges and took a plea deal that kept him out of jail. The deal also held a provision that Mitchell agree never to seek future employment as a police officer.