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JASPER, FLORIDA – Robert “Bob” Burton is a deadhead logger in the Florida panhandle. In the course of his business, he stumbled upon some illegal activities carried out by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), including state employees dumping toxic waste in Florida water reclamation areas.
On Friday, Hamilton County sheriff’s deputies and Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) agents, dressed in tactical gear and armed with assault rifles, served him with a search warrant. Agents seized his computer, cell phone, and video camera. However, Burton has not been charged with any crime.
He also reported that the DEP had seized a logger’s entire season harvest, even though the logger had the proper permits, and was violating no laws. A judge later ruled that the logger in question had legally harvested the logs, valued at over $300,000, but the DEP has refused to return the logs. He contends that public records regarding this case were intentionally destroyed.
We confirmed that the justification for the search warrant was Burton’s recorded conversation with Ryan Tyson, former Chief of Staff for State Senator Dean. The warrant reads, “the following laws have been or are being violated within said Premises: Interception and disclosure of wire, oral, or electronic communications F.S. 934.03(1)(a)(c).” However, neither Burton nor Scott was charged with violating this law.
In a follow up interview with Burton and Scott, they told us that the FDLE agents executing the warrant said it was highly unusual to execute a warrant for the alleged offense of recording a public official in the course of conducting business. Burton said that the agents gave indications that the raid may have been politically motivated.
They also provided us a chilling recording of a 911 call made to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office from Easter Sunday 2008 in which the Burton home was apparently fired upon repeatedly, allegedly by family members of a Hamilton County Commissioner. Automatic weapons fire can be clearly heard at 57 seconds into the recording.