Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings formally asked Orange-Osceola State Attorney Lawson Lamar on Monday not to bring a criminal charge against Edwin McFarlane, the 15-year-old boy arrested earlier this month.
The June10 incident has attracted national attention, bringing with it intense scrutiny and criticism of both agencies. Edwin said he walked the girl out of the Burlington Coat Factory on West Colonial Drive to look for her mother. After the mother followed the two outside and reunited with her child, the teen went back inside the store and resumed shopping. Prosecutors have been pondering whether to charge him with felony false imprisonment.
"We will figure out what to do with this case tomorrow," Lamar spokesman Randy Means said late Monday. "We're going to try to resolve it tomorrow."
"Great consideration" will be given to Demings' request, he said.
Lamar and Demings discussed the case Monday, Means said, but he said he was not able to divulge what transpired during their conversation.
The decision on how to proceed will hinge on whether the alleged crime can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence and not media pressure or publicity, Means said. He added: "There wasn't that much evidence" provided. In any case, the office is looking out for the "best interests of the child," as it does in all juvenile criminal cases, Means said.
McFarlane's mother, Mildred Roman, who was with him at the store the day of the incident, was delighted by the news. "It has really turned our lives upside down, and we've been walking in a nightmare since that day," Roman said. "Today we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel."
Roman found out about the sheriff's request from Natalie Jackson, Edwin's lawyer. She had not yet shared the news with her son, whose 15th birthday was Monday.
"I am sure he will be very happy," Roman said. "His intentions were never bad in reference to this child. He was just trying to help."
Last week, the case took on a different tone when details about Edwin's disciplinary record at school surfaced in news reports and in the courtroom. Many asked what his school history had to do with the current case.
The prosecution insisted his history was relevant to help a judge decide whether to keep the teen on home confinement, but after hearing that background, a judge released him from that status.
Edwin told investigators "he was just trying to help the child" and did not think to contact the store management to help reunite the child with her mother.
Jackson has said many lessons can be learned from the incident, but she has maintained all along that her client did nothing criminal that day.
Calls to her were not immediately returned Monday.
Last week, Jackson held a news conference to ask the State Attorney's Office to abandon the charges. The week before she and the teen appeared on "Good Morning America" calling to end the prosecution and expunge his arrest record. In a related development, Demings announced Monday that his agency has started a formal inquiry into allegations that a sheriff's employee may have spoken about the case to someone outside the agency.
That information was then posted on a "popular internet blog," according to a news release. Neither the blog nor the person who shared the information was disclosed. The person involved has been removed from the case, the Sheriff's Office said.
In the end, Means said, "we want to make sure this doesn't occur again, no matter what happened out there."
Anthony Colarossi can be reached at acolarossi@orlando sentinel.com or 407-420-5447. Bianca Prieto can be reached at email@example.com or 407-420-5620.