The executive director of Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers is facing up to two weeks in jail on a contempt of court charge for stuffing an anonymous tip in his mouth instead of handing it over to a judge Friday.
Richard Masten was appearing before Judge Victoria Brennan when he refused to share information related to a tip in a cocaine possession case. Instead, he ate the paper containing the tip while sitting in court.
“We promise the people who give us information to solve murders, serious violent crimes in this community, that they can call with an assurance that they will remain anonymous and that nothing about them or their information would ever be compromised," he said. "The case today started creeping into that... it’s not going to happen on my watch and I understood the consequences."
Masten was ordered to share the tip, without the source, with the judge after an attorney for a woman charged with cocaine possession asked to see the information it contained. The attorney said his request had nothing to do with identifying the person behind the tip.
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"In this case, there’s absolutely no information that I am looking for that has to do with the name or the identity of a tipster," Jean-Michel D’Escoubet said. "It's only the evidence that would be used in trial against her that the tip provided."
But Masten declined to show the tip to the judge so she could consider whether releasing it would compromise the tipster's identity. He said he couldn't trust the process and that he worried agreeing in this case would be a slippery slope.
“If you do it in this case, the question comes down the road, well you did it in that case why not this case," he said. "Well, I’m not going to do it in this case."
The judge found him in contempt of court for his actions.
Masten is set to appear in court again next week, when he could be sentenced to up to two weeks in jail.
“I’ll bring a toothbrush and some pajamas in case I do," he said.
Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers was started in 1983 and has received tens of thousands of tips and led to thousands of arrests.