Wiretap, phone searches among key evidence in Jared Bridegan murder investigation

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are preparing for a legal showdown in the Jared Bridegan murder case, which new legal filings show will involve the use of wire taps and phone search warrants.

On Wednesday, lawyers for one of the three people arrested filed a sweeping motion asking a judge to remove the current prosecutors from the case.

Bridegan’s ex-wife Shanna Gardner, her estranged husband Mario Fernandez, and his renter Henry Tenon are charged with the conspiracy to kill the father of four in Jacksonville Beach in Feb. 2022. Tenon pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testifying against others involved in the case.

Bridegan was shot multiple times at close range after dropping his older two children off at their mother’s house. Police said he was ambushed after someone left a tire in the road on his way home, while his toddler daughter was in the backseat of his SUV.

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Fernandez’s attorneys, Jesse Dreicer and Frank Tassone, allege in their motion that the state had illegal access to private emails and texts between the suspects and their legal teams.

They claim the State Attorney’s Office has too much information, including emails and texts that should be confidential and could compromise the fairness of the case.

That’s the basis of a 63-page motion filed in Duval County Court.

It’s in response to the state’s 23-page evidence list also filed Wednesday. The list of discovery material includes:

statements from dozens of witnesses, including people who provided surveillance videojail calls from the Duval County jail and Washington state, where Gardner was arrestedJared Bridegan’s computervideo of Bridegan’s funeralcell phones of Fernandez and Gardnerconversations from wiretaps

“A wiretap is one of the most intrusive investigative techniques there’s a high threshold for obtaining a wiretap, in fact, you have to go before a judge,” said Toni Chrabot, a retired FBI Jacksonville supervisor who now runs Risk Confidence Group.

She said wiretaps require warrants and are done carefully according to federal law.

“You have to show that you have tried all types of other investigative means, and that you were unable to establish or gain the information that you’re going to need,” she said. “And you also have to show that there is a high likelihood that using a wiretap, you will be able to gain that information. And it’s really important to note that you only in a wiretap, you only have 30 days.”

Chrabot noted it’s likely the defense will push back against some of the communications intercepted in the wiretaps including those with the suspects’ lawyers. Wiretaps can be incredibly influential in criminal cases when presented to a jury.

In an e-mail, a State Attorney’s Office spokesperson said “The State will file appropriate objections to the defendant’s motion and is confident it will prevail after full consideration by the Court.”

In this case, investigators used a third-party team not affiliated with the criminal probe to remove any privileged information. Documents show the Secret Service was involved with what’s called a “taint team.”

“A taint team is just that,” Chrabot explained. “You don’t want to taint your investigation.”

The defense claims the investigation is tainted because someone didn’t redact the protected conversations.

Ultimately the judge, the Honorable London Kite, will make a decision on whether the case will get a new team of prosecutors from a different district.

The next court hearing is Dec. 1 at the Duval County Courthouse. It’ll be the first time that Garnder and Fernandez appear in court together. Both face the death penalty if convicted.

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