Osceola clerk adds predecessor to list of 'high-profile' accused criminals

KISSIMMEE – On the home page of Osceola County Clerk of Court Armando Ramirez's redesigned website, a tab titled "High Profile Cases" led to a gallery of accused criminals — and former Clerk Malcom Thompson.

Thompson's the only one pictured in a business suit instead of a county jail mug shot. And unlike everyone else on the list — which includes accused rapists, killers and a white supremacist — he is not charged with breaking the law. Instead, he's suing Ramirez.

Only Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. can designate a Ninth Judicial Circuit case as "high profile," and he didn't know about Ramirez's list until notified by the Orlando Sentinel.

"Judge Perry did not designate the cases on the Clerk's website as high profile cases," Karen Levey, court administration spokeswoman said in an email late Friday.

Moments after the Sentinel received that email, the tab disappeared from Ramirez's website — and so did the list of alleged criminals.

Ramirez did not respond Friday to email inquiries about how he selected the high profile cases or why he created the list. Nor did Ramirez respond later in the day about whether he requested or received Perry's permission.

In an email late Friday, Ramirez's Orlando attorney, Ricardo R. Pesquera, said that Ramirez "will not speak to any member of the press for the time being."

Ramirez retained Pesquera after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement confirmed that Ramirez was the target of a criminal investigation last month. FDLE officials have not disclosed what the investigation is about.

Pesquera's email also stated be had instructed Ramirez "to refrain from responding to any and all inquiry of any kind whatsoever until the frivolous investigation presently being conducted by F.D.L.E. is concluded."

A Sentinel review of all 67 Florida clerks' websites Friday shows that high profile case lists are rare.

The Leon County Clerk of Court's office, for instance, has a high profile case page on its website, but Clerk Bob Inzer only classifies cases as of "significant public interest" after an official designation by the chief judge of the Second Judicial Circuit, a spokeswoman said.

In Orange and Osceola counties, there are two high profile cases designated by the Ninth Judicial Circuit authorized by Perry and appearing on the circuit's website. They are a civil defamation lawsuit, Zenaida Gonzalez vs. Casey Anthony, and the now-closed State of Florida vs. Casey Anthony criminal case.

Last year, Thompson lost his job to Ramirez in the Democratic primary after months of controversy over courthouse operations. They remain political rivals and Thompson has criticized Ramirez's management of the clerk's office in much the same manner Ramirez criticized Thompson during the campaign.

Thompson is currently suing Ramirez in his role as clerk to pay the $55,000 in legal fees Thompson spent successfully defending himself against workplace violence and intimidation charges last year, while still clerk of court.

Reached Friday for a response to Ramirez posting his photo alongside alleged violent criminals, Thompson said: "I'm at a loss for words. I don't know what goes through a person's mind."

hcurtis@tribune.com or 407-420-5257.

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