On Wednesday, March 18, 2015, former Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) employee, Shani Smith was surrendered to police. She is facing six felony counts of official misconduct. The charges stem from a case Smith worked in that began in November 2012, in which a mother, Catalina Bruno, was charged with driving under the influence and child neglect.
According to reports, Smith reported that Bruno was referred to a substance abuse and mental health evaluation from Spectrum evaluation center. Her report concluded that Bruno “showed no evidence of substance misuse or mental injury ” and the case was closed. However, under further investigation, Spectrum claims to have no record of Bruno visiting their facility for an evaluation. Six months later, Bruno’s son was left in a car and pronounced dead with a body temperature of 109 degrees.
Bruno pleaded guilty to manslaughter and child neglect. She spent one year in jail and was ordered into a rehab program. Her attorney was quick to point fingers at DCF stating that the child should have been taken away from the mother while she underwent treatment for alcohol abuse.
Now Smith is facing serious charges for her role including working without property state credentials. Her attorney is prepared to fight the allegations stating that he believes his client is being made a scapegoat due to the scrutiny DCF received after a multitude of child deaths were reported in 2013.
When a public official is charged with official misconduct, it means that they violated his or her duty to follow the law and act on behalf of the public good. Felony charges for official misconduct should not be taken lightly. An experienced criminal defense attorney cannot only help you understand the charges, but also help you protect your rights and thoroughly investigate the accusations.
MiamiHerald.com, “Former Miami DCF investigator arrested for falsifying records,” David Ovalle, 18 March 2015