For slightly over a year now I’ve kept silent about the legal process and how it should be addressing the issues surrounding the embarrassment of the recent Dr. Niblock case. I, like many within the community, have quietly and patiently been waiting for the victim and the accused to have their day in court.
This whole issue began when the victim came forward to law enforcement on the island because of her concerns. After hearing her story, they advised if they were to move forward, she would be required to file a complaint with their office and turn over the electronic devices containing the necessary evidence to continue with the case.
Recognizing the impact this would have on the department, Chief Al Schettino wisely turned the case over to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office to insure a complete and unbiased investigation would be carried out. This would insure the outcome would not be tainted due to the relationship between the accused and the city department he was ultimately responsible for.
A thorough and professional process was followed by both the Marco Police Department and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office. The results of which brought a recommendation that Dr. Niblock be charged with a First-Degree Battery charge for his unwanted advances against the victim. The County Attorney’s Office agreed and Dr. Niblock had a warrant sworn out for his arrest.
Just prior to that, Niblock came before the city council and swore his innocence and requested a “paid leave of absence,” which was granted in February. To be clear, there is no provision for a “paid leave of absence” in any of the city handbooks or ordinances. He was still granted it nevertheless, and a month later was removed from his position by council after they found cause to dismiss him.
I’m not sure if council might have recourse to ask for that month’s worth of tax dollars to be returned to the city, now that he has plead to the charges.
We would attend court whenever the case was scheduled to be heard before the judge, only to be disappointed that another continuance was once again granted. The old phrase of, “Justice delayed is justice denied,” would continue to ring in my mind, especially after it was announced that allegedly another young lady had similarly suffered under the same abuse by Dr. Niblock in Alachua County, prior to his coming to Marco Island.
When I was advised by contacts in Gainesville that this young lady was having a hard time moving the charges forward, beyond that of the initial investigation by local authorities, I was alarmed. This is something I found to be disgusting and reprehensible, given the fact that we as a society have said we will no longer accept this abhorrent and disgusting behavior toward women.
In both of these cases a crime had allegedly not only been committed against these two young women, but he would have used the taxpayers’ monies in those jurisdictions to facilitate that. He was bartering with taxpayers’ money for his crude and salacious desires; Offering jobs with substantial monetary enticements at the expense of taxpayers.
Thank God these two women were of high moral character and rebuffed his advances and went to authorities to seek protection.
Those manipulations didn’t materialize in this case, but in how many others has it, here and in other locations?
It was only recently that we saw a nation rally to speak out against these assaults against our daughters, wives, sisters and friends. Was this outrage only fashionable because someone got to hold up a sign on TV or have their five minutes of fame on a radio talk show?
Were we really serious about our disgust for this type of Neanderthal behavior by those in power? That power can take many forms; money, professional, elected positions and other places of influence. I find it disturbing that those that hold the public trust, no matter where they reside, would seek to shield those that partake in these types of inexcusable conduct and are themselves worthy of our disdain for their actions.
It is no wonder that women are afraid to come forward, especially when those in charge of our own legal system fail to rise to the standards that we would expect of them.
I question the use of Florida’s Pre-Trial Intervention Program in Alachua County, in this case to shield Niblock from charges there, when they knew that he was awaiting his trial date in Collier County. I can only speculate that the two State Attorney’s Offices may well have collaborated on making this quietly go away.
At least the 8th Judicial Circuit in Gainesville required more in retribution for Niblock’s actions there, then did our own 20th Judicial Circuit here in Southwest Florida. It is especially nauseating as a woman heads the 20th Judicial Circuit here in our area, and just ran for election touting her no-nonsense view of enforcing the law. During the campaign Amira Fox sought to dismiss the cloud hovering over that office concerning the “guilty disposition rate” in the 20th District, and the accusations concerning “cherry picking” to make those rates look favorable.
Was justice served in these two cases? I’ll let you determine that for yourselves, but in my opinion, we did a disservice to those having the courage to come forward to expose wrong doing.