Florida State Attorney abdicates investigation of black fugitive's death by police

Hunters Lake, Spring Hill, Florida, where James Rayford drowned in 2009.

[photo by Brian Moore]


Effective Immediately

Date: Monday, January 11, 2021 (updated)

Contact: Brian Moore, Cell 352-585-2907

Spring Hill, Florida (Hernando County):

In a series of 2020 letters (August 5 and December 19, 2020) to 5th District State Attorney Brad King, a Hernando County civic activist, Brian Moore, challenged Attorney King’s office for failing to perform its investigative duties on the 2009 drowning death of a black fugitive, James “Little Man” Rayford, at Hunters Lake in Hernando County; and again in 2020, in light of new perceptions of black deaths from police actions nationwide.

Following is Hernando County Sheriff's news release (and picture) of James Rayford referring to the police’s explanation of the fugitive's death on September 11, 2009.



(Moore’s letter of 12-19-2020 to State Attorney Brad King)

Moore responded that King’s terse refusal letter of September 3, 2020 (link below), to conduct an investigation in 2020, was wrongly based on Hernando County Sheriff’s own review, FDLE “findings in 2009," and "no new evidence in 2020.“


Moore argued that the Hernando Sheriff and the FDLE, as required by law, did not submit any evidence to the 5th District State Attorney in 2009. And now State Attorney King is basing his 2020 denial of a new investigation on other state agency conclusions in 2009, thereby abdicating his office’s responsibility in 2009, and again in 2020.

(comparable process of FDLE referring a fatal police shooting to a local state attorney is seen in Tampa Bay Times article of Nov. 29, 2020, “Handgun was pulled…then fatal shots fired,” by Tony Marrero:


Moore declared that the Hernando Sheriff’s self-investigation in 2009 holds no merit; plus, he pointed out that the FDLE, in an August 4, 2020 e-mail, mistakenly referred to Mr. Rayford from “Hillsborough” County, not Hernando county (see link):


Eric S. Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General, from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, e-mailed a letter, dated November 3, 2020, to US Congressman Daniel Webster’s office, which erred in referring to the drowning of a person named “Raymond James” not James Rayford. (Raymond James is a financial firm in the city of Tampa)":


The Hunters Lake resident pointed out to Attorney King that King's reliance on two agencies which did not know the basic location of the drowning nor the name of the victim, further negates King’s dependence on these agencies to fulfill the state attorney's duties. The State Attorney's 5th District is surrendering its responsibility in this matter.

Janice T. Johnson, Citizens Service for Governor Ron DeSantis, wrote Moore on July 31, 2020, indicating that she had forwarded his investigation request to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). More importantly, she urged Moore to use the Governor’s rationale with the FDLE [implying if FDLE refused] that “Each state attorney is an elected official with discretionary duties, including determining whether or not to pursue the prosecution of a crime committed within his or her jurisdiction.” Ms. Johnson concluded, “You may wish to contact your local state attorney for further assistance.”


In addition, the US DOJ Civil Rights Division sent Moore an e-mail, August 18, 2020, urging him to “contact state law enforcement…” in this matter.


The Hernando activist then referred to the recent history of Florida as a segregated state, and Hernando County (Brooksville) as a base of the Ku Klux Klan (30 years prior to King’s 1988 election to the State Attorney office), which lies within the State Attorney’s 5th district.

In addition, King’s State Attorney predecessors in Miami, in 1954, under the direction of Dade County State Attorney George Brautigam, "in an effort to discredit racial integration," conducted Miami’s Little Smith Trials. Brautigam linked civil rights supporters with a Communist conspiracy. Attorney Brautigam subpoenaed more than one hundred people and sent thirty-one witnesses to jail, solely for their political beliefs. They were smeared in the press as well, with many losing their livelihood. ("A Gathering of Fugitives," by Diana Anhalt, Archer books, pages 60-67).

Three years later, on June 17, 1957, the US Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, in a 6-1 vote (two justices abstained), inYates vs. U.S., declared such actions unconstitutional and a violation of free speech. All 106 prisoners in Florida, as well as others across the nation, were freed and declared innocent.

Moore concluded his December 19, 2020 letter to King on a personal note, questioning State Attorney King’s own ethical conduct by his announcing his own retirement on the afternoon of the final registration day (April 24, 2020) for the 5th District State Attorney position. Only Mr. King's office Executive Director, Bill Gladson, had applied the previous day, after resigning his executive director position. (Following is Ocala Star-Banner article of April 24, 2020, “Brad King won’t seek another term as state attorney,” by reporter Austin L. Miller):


Similar covert actions occurred in the 5th Congressional District, in 2008, by then U.S. Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite, who had announced her retirement on the final day of filing, only enabling Hernando County Sheriff Rick Nugent to secretly apply the last day, before any other candidate would know or have a chance to file. Nugent was elected as the 5th District's US Congressman and served for three terms, totaling six years.

Both congressional and state attorney districts overlap some of the same geographical areas. Ironically, both actions (by King and Nugent), involved police authorities that are supposed to uphold the law. Their actions, while technically legal, were unsavory, deceptive, and did not allow the people of their district to be able to choose who they want as their state attorney and congressional representatives…something that Governor DeSantis emphasized in his previously mentioned July 31, 2020 letter to activist Moore.


(Orlando Sentinel, May 1, 2020, “Brad King’s power play cost voters a chance to choose their next state attorney,” by Editorial Board)

Moore’s Summary of Rayford event:

On September 9, 2009, black Pasco County fugitive, James “Little Man” Rayford, drowned on Hunter’s Lake in Hernando County upon fleeing the pursing Hernando County Sheriff’s Department. Moore wrote that a Hernando County Sheriff’s helicopter hovered over Rayford’s johnboat on the lake, exploding it into the air and repeatedly forcing Rayford under water several times causing him to drown. His body was recovered 2 days later.

Moore, who resides in front of the Lake in question, did see the fugitive fishing in a small boat earlier that day, but did not witness the subsequent pursuit and police action. However, in the following three weeks, the activist surveyed homes on the south side of the lake, finding three eyewitnesses who attested to the police's wrongful actions.

To a person, all three residential witnesses told Moore the helicopter’s powerful rotating blades were so close to the fugitive they either hit him or threw him up in the air and into the lake, then forcing him under water multiple times to drown. Upon Moore registering his complaint in 2009 with the Hernando Sheriff’s department, they conducted their own self-investigation and denied wrongdoing. The local police accused Moore of bullying the witnesses. Moore accused the police of intimidating the witnesses.

Moore then took his complaint to then Governor Charlie Crist, to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Civil Rights Division. The civic activist also sent other complaint and investigation requests asking the FBI, the NAACP regional office in Georgia, and similar organizations, but received no response.

The FDLE wrote Moore in 2010 concluding no criminal activity by Hernando County Sheriffs was responsible for Mr. Rayford’s subsequent death. Governor Crist also rejected a further investigation in 2009, basing his position on the FDLE’s findings “at that time.” Moore was not advised by any of the agencies that he should contact the State Attorney’s office in the 5th District, where the drowning occurred, who determine to conduct such investigations. Mr. King did not initiate such an investigation on his own.

Moore hopes that his letters of 2020 and his exposing of Brad King’s abdication of duty in reviewing such police actions, and also of King’s own reprehensible personal conduct, may bring some obligatory effort from Mr. King, or from the new 5th District State Attorney’s office starting in 2021, to finally conduct an independent and official investigation.

Following is Brian Moore's initial letter of August 5, 2020, to State Attorney Brad King, with rationale for a new investigation, basing it on social and cultural changes in the country regarding police violence of blacks; plus, a new recognition by both military and the police of misusing over-sized equipment in policing efforts (i.e. helicopters).



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