ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – After the State Attorney's Office declined to file charges against a 25-year-old Jacksonville man accused of attempted kidnapping in downtown St. Augustine, News4Jax obtained video evidence that prosecutors said shows the crime never happened.
Shanna Kuenzi, 21, told St. Augustine police that she was walking on a sidewalk along Orange Street about noon Sept. 14 when a Chevrolet SUV driven by William Ross Cesery III pulled up beside her. She said Cesery offered her lunch and marijuana and told her that she was beautiful, all while asking her if she needed a ride, according to the police report.
Kuenzi claimed Cesery grabbed her and forcefully pulled her into his SUV, but that she fought him off before he sped away and that she immediately called police.
But the entire encounter between Kuenzi and Cesery was caught on video, and the evidence did not support her story, prosecutors said.
Surveillance video from a home on Orange Street shows Cesery pulling into a driveway and Kuenzi walking over to him as he gets out of the SUV. After talking for about 30 seconds, the two hug and then begin holding hands as they continue talking, prosecutors said.
The homeowner from the driveway where Cesery stopped then comes out and tells Cesery to leave his driveway.
Kuenzi walks away and Cesery gets back in his SUV and drives after her.
The homeowner then follows the pair and continues filming them on dash cam video that he also provided to police.
In the video, Cesery can be seen stopping his vehicle in the road, and Kuenzi slows her pace, but seconds later the homeowner blows the horn on his vehicle and Cesery drives away.
According to prosecutors, the interactions between Cesery and Kuenzi appear to be consensual and “there is no evidence that Mr. Cesery used any physical force against (Kuenzi) during their interaction.”
Prosecutors said Kuenzi only called 911 after speaking with her boyfriend.
Rhonda Peoples-Waters, a defense attorney not connected to the case, said that without the video, the case could have easily gone to trial.
“There are a lot of criminal cases that are he said, she said,” Peoples-Waters said. “So it’s not unusual for the state to decide, 'We have enough evidence since this is what the alleged victim is telling us to go forward with this.'”
Cesery has been arrested six times since 2007. In 2011, he was arrested on multiple charges, including possession of drugs and resisting an officer. He faced two criminal traffic citations for speeding and reckless driving this year and he is on probation for battery.
In 2012, police said, Cesery was involved in a physical fight during the Florida-Georgia football game and that he was knocked unconscious.
Lawyers contended at his first appearance that Cesery has "significant medical issues" resulting from a boating accident in 2007.
Peoples-Waters said having the allegations thrown out by the State Attorney’s Office is critical for Cesery.
“It’s very important to him because his credibility would have been in jeopardy, because they would have looked at his past history,” Peoples-Waters said. “The state may have very well gone forward and let the jury decide based on that alleged victim’s testimony whether he had gone forward with an alleged kidnapping, which is punishable by 30 years in prison.”
Prosecutors said Kuenzi will not face any charges related to filing a false police report.
Cesery declined Monday to comment on the case.