The prosecution and defense in the criminal trial for Damien Gilliams and Pamela Parris rested on Tuesday. The jury was sent home for the afternoon, and closing arguments will begin Wednesday.
Jeffrey H. Garland is representing Damien Gilliams, and Philip Reizenstein is representing Pamela Parris. Gilliams and Parris both maintain their innocence.
The prosecutors are M. Lev Evans and Chris Taylor.
Several people testified this week, including Sebastian City Manager Paul Carlisle, Mayor Ed Dodd, Bob Stephens, Russell Herrmann, former City Attorney James Stokes, Bill Flynn, and Councilmembers Jim Hill and Bob McPartlan.
The defense argued that the April 22, 2020, meeting was not held in “secret” because they recorded it on their cell phones. Reizenstein also argued that the people who showed up didn’t know it was canceled.
“This meeting was noticed, people showed up,” Reizenstein said.
City Manager Paul Carlisle
Carlisle took the witness stand on Friday afternoon and finished up on Monday. He told the prosecution that citizens overwhelmed the city’s email server about the meeting.
Last year, Zoom was a new tool being tested by the City of Sebastian, and they ran into problems when using it during a previous meeting before April 22, 2020.
“They wanted to attend in person,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle also stated that the email server was a bottleneck, delivering emails slowly because of the time it took to process each email. All emails go through a scan and other tools to ensure they are not infected with malware or viruses.
The City Manager added that he received an email that indicated former Vice Mayor Charles Mauti wanted to cancel April 22, 2020, meeting. Carlisle said Councilman Jim Hill and Mayor Ed Dodd requested for the meeting to be canceled as well.
At 2:30 p.m. on April 22, 2020, Carlisle sent a notice to staff, council members, and others stating the meeting was canceled. Notices were also posted on the exterior chamber doors and the City of Sebastian website.
Garland accuses Carlisle of not providing enough notice to postpone the meeting.
Reizenstein asked if Carlisle thought he received conflicting information from former Vice Mayor Charles Mauti about postponing the meeting. Carlisle agreed, only after receiving another email that he was cc’ed on to a Sebastian resident that he wanted it canceled.
Reizenstein told Carlisle that Mauti never directly sent him an email to cancel the meeting but only copied him when sending it to someone else.
Reizenstein also played a voice mail message Carlisle left on Parris’ phone made on April 20. Reizenstein argued that if Carlisle could call Parris on the 20th, why not the 22nd to inform her of the cancelation.
Carlisle said he called to discuss a hearing about the variance that was on the agenda.
Reizenstein also said that when Mauti showed up in a suit and tie to the meeting, it was obvious he didn’t want it canceled. Carlisle insisted he still had full authority to cancel the meeting.
The prosecution argued that Gilliams knew the meeting was canceled based on how he was dressed in casual clothes and a baseball cap. The prosecution also showed a picture that Parris published on her Facebook page from April 22, 2020, suggesting the meeting was canceled.
The prosecution asked why the meetings couldn’t be on Zoom or other ways to attend the meeting virtually. Carlisle said that the City Council were in favor of not having a meeting since the public could not be present. These statements were made by Council members Jim Hill, Pamela Parris, Ed Dodd, Charles Mauti, and Mayor Ed Dodd on March 18, 2020.
“They didn’t feel comfortable without the public being present,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle added the city received more than 1,500 emails from April 21, 2020 – April 22. 2020 from citizens asking for the meeting to be canceled. Citizens wanted to participate in person for public input and wanted the meeting postponed.