A resident ranger at a Boy Scout camp in Clay County was arrested last week for soliciting and taking bribes from people assigned to do community service there. Michael Kenneth Eble was taking money from the defendants and then signing their official documents to indicate they had completed the community service, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said Eble’s bribery operation was widespread and the Boy Scout camp’s community service program has been suspended until a replacement is found. Eble, 50, was fired and evicted from his residence at the camp, the newspaper reported. He is facing a bribery charge in Clay County, a second-degree felony that could land him up to 15 years in state prison.
People who are arrested on misdemeanor charges in Clay County are often sentenced to do some form of community service, often times as part of his or her probation. In other cases, it can be one of the conditions that the defendant must meet to have an adjudication withheld in the case. One question this case brings up is whether or not the people who paid Eble rather than do their own community service would be subject to any punishment. Technically, if someone is assigned to probation and does not complete the community service, that would constitute a Clay County violation of probation. If someone violates their probation, they could get the full sentence for the previous crime. So, for example, if someone was on probation for a charge that had a maximum of a year in the county jail, the defendant could now be sentenced to a year in jail.
In this case, it is probably more likely that the state will choose to use the people who paid the bribes as witnesses against Eble and not pursue Clay County criminal charges against them. Could the state insist the people actually complete the community service this time? Maybe. But the state is probably more likely to look at them as victims in a case like this. Community service is an important component of sentences for Clay County misdemeanor cases, and our Clay County Probation Attorney has had hundreds of clients who have done their required hours. The state needs to ensure the public that it is above board and not influenced by people like Eble, and will likely pursue the case against Eble aggressively. One key to Eble’s case will be who initiated the discussion about the bribery. If it was Eble, and there are several people who say so, his case has some serious problems. White collar crime defenses can be difficult because, similar to Eble’s cases, there is generally a pattern of activity before police get involved, which can lead to a string of witnesses that could look damaging at trial. But, it’s also possible that he developed a reputation for providing this service, so to speak, and people sought him out. That could also open up the possibility for probation violations against those who paid the bribes.