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Ex-Fla. Deputy's Road Rage Case Ends in Mistrial

The criminal case of Paul Pletcher, a former deputy accused of stealing a woman's cellphone during an alleged road rage incident, ended in a mistrial Wednesday.

A new trial with a new jury will be held later this year.

Broward Circuit Judge Michael Usan, who presided over this week's trial through noon, had a family emergency and could not continue with the case, Circuit Judge Martin Bidwell told jurors after a long lunch break.

Pletcher, 39, had the option of choosing to recess the trial and resuming proceedings when Usan returns to the bench, but instead opted for a mistrial.

A new trial date will be set during a status hearing at 9 a.m. Jan. 22 in Usan's courtroom.

Bidwell sent jurors home Wednesday after asking a court deputy to collect notes they'd taken since the trial began on Tuesday. Bidwell told jurors the notes would be destroyed.

Outside the courtroom, prosecutor Deborah Zimet and defense attorney Al Milian declined to comment.

Pletcher faces four criminal counts: burglary, battery, criminal mischief and petty theft. He has pleaded not guilty.

He is accused of pulling over Neyda Osorio in Plantation in May 2011 and snatching her cellphone when he realized he was being recorded. Police say he drove off with the phone and tossed it in pieces out the window of his patrol car.

Plantation police were able to retrieve the phone and an expert with the Broward Sheriff's Office was able to retrieve the 22-second recording.

Pletcher's supervisors at the Sheriff's Office identified him as the man in the video, Zimet told jurors on Tuesday.

In the recording, Pletcher orders Osorio nine times to turn over the phone.

At one point, he yells, "Give me the phone now or else you're going to jail."

Osorio told police she put the phone in her purse, but Pletcher put his arm across her neck and restrained her hands so he could reach into her truck and grab the phone.

The recording captures the sounds of a struggle before it comes to an end.

Pletcher, then a Sheriff's deputy assigned to patrol Pompano Beach, was fired in July 2012.

Osorio was set to take the stand on Wednesday afternoon, but never got the chance.

"She's very disappointed," said Ed McGee, her attorney.

Osorio has her own legal battle ahead.

She was arrested in June by an off-duty deputy working a detail outside a nightclub. The charges include battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest with violence.

A hearing has been set for Friday.

Less than three months after her encounter with Pletcher, Fort Lauderdale police charged her with carrying a concealed firearm without a permit. Prosecutors dropped the case after police failed to provide details about the size of Osorio's purse, Zimet said.

Copyright 2014 - Sun Sentinel

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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