Crime Stoppers Exec Eats Evidence, Gets Jail Time

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on March 18, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The director of a Florida Crime Stoppers program in Miami is heading to jail for eating evidence. Yeah, eating evidence. And it wasn't a weed brownie.

Richard Masten, the executive director of Miami-Dade's Crime Stoppers hotline, swallowed a piece of paper containing important information in protest of a court order.

So why was he sentenced to jail?

Appetizer: Protecting a Source

Masten ate a piece of paper related to a cocaine possession case that he was ordered to hand over to a judge. Though the sheet of paper didn't contain the hotline caller's name, Masten believed it could reveal the tipster's identity, Reuters reports.

"We promise the people who give us information to solve [crimes] [...] that nothing about them or their information would ever be compromised," Masten said.

So, he dramatically ripped the paper in half and chewed on the shreds of paper in front of cameras before the judge entered the courtroom. That act led to him to eat crow of the legal variety.

Main Course: Contempt of Court

Masten was sentenced to 14 days in jail and fined $500 for criminal contempt of court. A person can be held in criminal contempt of court when he or she defies the court's authority, casts disrespect on the court, or impedes the court's ability to perform its functions. It can include anything from giving a judge the middle finger to sending a judge too many emails.

In this case, Masten balked at the court's authority and made edible inroads into the court's functions by swallowing the paper and refusing to hand it over to the judge.

Unfortunately for Masten, it seems his act of protest was largely unnecessary. The judge ordered him to share the tip, without the source, after an attorney for a woman charged with cocaine possession asked to see the information it contained. The woman's attorney said his request had nothing to do with identifying the person behind the tip.

As Judge Victoria Brennan summed it up to Masten's attorney according to Miami's WPLG-TV: "I think your client's very passionate. But I think sometimes passion can cloud judgment."

Maybe Masten can't think clearly because he needs a more balanced diet.

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