Suspended terms of Cristian Fernandez probation no longer on hold

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The shelved terms of probation for Cristian Fernandez, the Jacksonville teen who was just 12 when he was arrested in the beating death of his 2-year-old half-brother, have been reinstated.

Attorneys Hank Coxe and Buddy Schulz, who represent Fernandez, had convinced State Attorney Bill Cervone and Circuit Judge David Gooding to hold off on enforcing the conditions of their client’s probation when he was first released on his 19th birthday, citing recent developments.

“Circumstances have developed in the past several months which render application of the conditions of probation, both general and special, other than as specified herein, unrealistic and problematic,” Coxe and Schulz wrote in their motion.

COURT DOCUMENTS: Motion to stay conditions of order of probation

The motion went on to say that Fernandez should be placed on probation when he was released, but it noted that certain conditions, which were not specified in the motion, should not be imposed until his circumstances change.

Fernandez was not in court Thursday when his attorney appeared on his behalf to discuss the status of his case, and the judge lifted the stay of the probation conditions, meaning Fernandez must now meet all the conditions in the agreement, or risk going back to prison.

A copy of Fernandez’s probationary order states that, among other things, he must be a part- or full-time student, hold a job and receive counseling. It also limits his contact with former siblings and minors.

Fernandez had been held at a state-contracted Department of Juvenile Justice facility since 2013 when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated battery charges in the case.

At first, Fernandez was charged with first-degree murder in the March 2011 death of 2-year-old half-brother David Galarraga. Galarraga died two days after a beating that saw him lose consciousness after, prosecutors said, his head was repeatedly slammed into a bookshelf.

Then-Public Defender Matt Shirk initially spearheaded Fernandez's defense. But he later caved to pressure to step aside from a high-powered legal team, including Coxe, that ultimately secured a plea deal for Fernandez.

The case changed the way juveniles are prosecuted in Jacksonville. It also became a hot-button issue in the most recent state attorney election, in which incumbent Angela Corey, who charged Fernandez as an adult, was ousted by Melissa Nelson, one of the boy's attorneys.

Because of her involvement in Fernandez's defense, Nelson recused herself from the case. As a result, Gov. Rick Scott tapped Cervone, whose office covers Florida's 8th Judicial Circuit, to oversee the case.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.