2017-12-14 / Front Page

Florez Pleads Not Guilty to Charges

By Olga Enger

Newport City Councilor John Florez pled not guilty in Newport District Court on Wednesday, Dec. 13 on charges of making crank or obscene telephone calls to a 13-year-old boy.

Florez allegedly called the boy after finding what he called “sexually explicit, threatening and possessive messages” on his 12-yearold daughter’s phone.

“I feel drained,” Florez told Newport This Week after the hearing. “I feel like the tables of justice were turned against me. I did what any father would have done."

In the official police report released at approximately 4 p.m. on Dec. 13, Newport Police Detective Stephen Carrig wrote that the boy told detectives that Florez called him and said, “ I’ll kill you … No one will find you … I’ll cut you into little pieces.”

Florez also allegedly told the boy, “Don’t [expletive] with me. I’m from the hood of Colombia,” the report says.

Florez denied these allegations when NTW asked him about the alleged statements.

Florez said he first saw the series of Snapchat messages between his daughter and the boy on Dec. 2.

The messages from the boy, which Florez provided to Newport This Week, vacillated between jealousy and extreme affection. At one point, the boy said he would “choke her” if Florez’s daughter called herself ugly or fat. Other messages included, “If I say call me, that means call me”; “I’m just way too [expletive] jealous”; and “Nobody is ever gonna take you away from me.” Florez said the boy also sent sexually explicit photos to his daughter.

“After I read the messages, I called him and told him to stay away from my daughter,” Florez said. “When I was that age, if I got a call from a father, I would have apologized and backed off. This kid was defensive, abrasive and very threatening.”

Over the next 24 hours, Florez exchanged over three-dozen text messages with the boy, and received numerous prank phone calls, according to Florez, who says he repeatedly asked the boy to stop contacting him or he would contact police. When the boy didn’t stop, Florez asked to speak to his guardian and engage in a “civil discussion.”

“I tried to make him stop, but he said I didn’t understand the relationship,” Florez said. “He was just defensive and wouldn’t stop harassing us.”

After Florez received another late-night prank call on his mobile phone on Dec. 4, Florez found the boy’s grandmother on Facebook and sent her a message.

“Your son or grandson is sending very lewd messages to my 12-yearold daughter,” Florez wrote on Facebook Messenger. “He is also prank calling me. I am going to go to the police tomorrow to report him.” The woman did not respond, according to Florez.

On Dec. 4, the Florez family filed a protective order against the child in Family Court. Florez’s wife, Karen Sironen, then went to the Newport Police Department (NPD) to file a report, as instructed by the Family Court judge.

Sironen “indicated to Newport Police Detectives that they did not wish to pursue charges; they only wanted the minor to stop sending the messages,” according to a statement issued by the NPD on Dec. 12.

During the course of the police investigation, however, detectives said they developed probable cause that Florez had called the boy and “made several explicit threats to harm the minor,” according to the police statement.

On Monday, Dec. 11, Florez, accompanied by his attorney, Michael Farley, was interviewed by detectives and later charged.

“I’m very surprised that the Newport Police Department decided to file charges against Mr. Florez,” Farley said, “and I can only speculate as to their reasons.”

Florez said that, despite the charges, he is overwhelmed with support he is receiving from the community and his colleagues. Councilor Susan Taylor was in attendance at the Dec. 13 arraignment in Newport.

Carrig wrote in his report that the state Attorney General’s office declined to bring charges against the boy. “We spoke to the AG’s office and explained the situation that was reported on 12/4/17 and their position was that they would not prosecute based on the ages of [the boy and Florez’s daughter].”

Florez was released Dec. 13 on personal recognizance. The next hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9, 2018.

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