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Joseph Graves Case Gets September Trial Date

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Two years after his arrest, a former lab technician from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) remains months away from trial.

Joseph Graves faces myriad charges: pleading not guilty to evidence tampering, drug trafficking, racketeering and grand theft while working out of FDLE’s Pensacola office. State Attorney Bill Eddins says his office will prosecute what he calls a very complex case.

“It covered cases out of several different counties where [Graves] is charged with substituting fake drugs for real drugs, including cases as far away as Tampa,” said Eddins. “The witnesses will have to be brought in from Tampa, Tallahassee, Panama City, as well as in our circuit.”

Graves worked nearly 2,600 cases for 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 counties. His trial had been scheduled to begin last August, but problems arose with his defense team.

“The defendant had hired two private lawyers and the court made the determination after over a year that they had a conflict in the case,” said Eddins. “Because of their previous representation by one of the lawyers of [Graves’] girlfriend, a major witness in the case.”

As a result, the new counsel had the necessity under due process of having the case delayed for several months, so they could get up to speed on Graves’ case. Circuit Judge Scott Duncan, who will preside, granted the stay and a hard-target trial date of September 19 in Pensacola.

When a trial is delayed, the gate swings both ways. Not only does Graves’ defense benefit from the extra time, but so does Assistant State Attorney Russ Edgar, the lead prosecutor.

“He continues to tweak, fine tune, and go back over his cases as time goes on,” said Eddins. “I feel that, under the unique circumstances of this case, our case gets stronger as time passes.”

Almost two years after Graves’ arrest, it remains unclear just how many cases in the First Judicial Circuit could have been affected. Eddins places the number at 50, which he says they pretty much worked through without any significant damage.

There is at least one exception: Herschel Royals was charged in 2013 with felony drug trafficking. The case as dismissed last December, when it was discovered that the evidence against him, mostly pills, no longer existed.

Royals’ case is now on appeal, and Eddins is confident the dismissal will be overturned.