TALLAHASSEE —The five state attorneys who work within the North Florida jurisdiction of U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe met with Keefe Thursday in the state’s capital city to discuss shared priorities and future prosecutorial cooperation and coordination.
"We zeroed in on two priority areas where our missions align — gun violence and drug crime — and laid the groundwork for future operations that will make our communities safer across this part of the state," Keefe said in an email sent following the meeting.
Bill Eddins, the state attorney for the First Judicial Circuit, said his office had become involved with the U.S. Attorney’s Office early on in Keefe’s tenure to collaborate on the prosecution of gun crimes.
Federal law provides for enhanced sentences to be doled out to convicted felons with a violent past who are charged with possession of a firearm, and Eddins said Keefe’s office has been taking "a few (such) cases each month" from his office to prosecute federally.
"There has been a clear, immediate and substantial increase in the number of cases in which the federal authorities have assisted our office," Eddins said.
Another area of discussion, Eddins said, was the prosecution of marijuana cases in an era in which state procedures for determining THC levels have not kept up with changing laws regarding the possession of cannabis.
Keefe’s office has offered assistance to the State Attorney’s offices in prosecuting important marijuana cases and offered the use of federal test labs to measure THC levels until such time as the Florida Legislature appropriates proper funding to bring state labs up to speed, Eddins said.
"This would be limited to a limited amount of very important cases until the legislature can correct the problem, which I foresee taking a number of months," Eddins said.
Keefe also offered the states attorneys’ — who along with Eddins included, Jack Campbell of the Second Judicial Circuit, Jeffrey Siegmeister of the Third Judicial Circuit, William Cervone of the Eighth Judicial Circuit and Glenn Hess of the 14th Judicial Circuit — help obtaining grants.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has representatives who are knowledgeable and provide information that can assist local prosecutors in obtaining federal grant money, Eddins said.
Finally, Eddins said, Keefe offered access to training opportunities for assistant state attorneys.
"The federal government has access to excellent lawyers across the nation that come in and make presentations on topics like tactics and strategies at trial, as well as topics common to both state and federal prosecutors dealing with things like drugs and gun crimes," he said.
Keefe, an Okaloosa County resident sworn in as U.S. Attorney in January, has in his relatively short time on the job made a point "of providing very clear communication, cooperation and support for local law enforcement and the prosecutors’ offices in the Northern District of Florida," Eddins said.
Keefe called his meeting with the five elected state attorneys important and historic.
"This unprecedented meeting was an important opportunity for us to sit down and share our priorities and strategies, so we can identify the best ways to work together as partners," he said. "While we have different jurisdictions and resources, the United States Attorney's Office and locally elected state attorneys share a common mission: protecting the law-abiding people of Northern Florida."