Billboard criticizes state attorney candidate over stand your ground case

Reporter: Lauren Sweeney
Published: Updated:

The father of a man killed outside a south Fort Myers townhouse in 2016 has paid for a billboard to criticize the decision not to file charges in his son’s case.

The four line message that cycles through a digital billboard just over the Edison Bridge on Business U.S. 41 in North Fort Myers, ends with the statement, “Amira is nice to murderers”.

Amira, is Amira Fox, the Chief Assistant State Attorney for Florida’s 20th Judicial District and candidate to replace longtime State Attorney Stephen Russell.

“Amira runs the day to day operations in the State Attorney’s office, so she either knows the problem or she should know about if she doesn’t that’s even worse, “ said Sandy Modell, whose son Ryan was 32 years old when he was killed.

Ryan Modell was shot and killed by James Taylor in 2016 at a residence at Emerson Square, a gated townhouse community.

The state attorney’s office decided in 2017 not to press charges against Taylor, writing in a memorandum that it believed Taylor was acting in self-defense.

Fox did not personally make the call in Modell’s case: Assistant State Attorney Dan Feinberg did the case review against Taylor and wrote the memorandum.

Taylor was renting a unit in proximity to a unit owned by Modell’s girlfriend at the time and showed up at Taylor’s door by mistake late at night.

Modell, who had been drinking throughout the day and evening, was reportedly ‘banging on the door’ according to a 9-1-1 call placed by Taylor’s wife, Patrice.

A dispatcher told Mrs. Taylor to tell her husband to come back inside until police arrive. She tells them he’s inside before hanging up the phone.

At some point after that call ends, Taylor went back outside with his gun and shot Modell. He claimed Modell charged at him and he was in fear for his life.

Aerial photographs of the location show that the shooting happened at the next driveway over from the Taylor’s door.

“What possessed anybody, Taylor or any of us — that I have to arm myself, leave the safety of my own home and go out searching for somebody that I know approached my door by mistake,” said Mark O’Mara, the Orlando defense attorney who secured an acquittal for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

O’Mara was hired by the Modell family to review the case. He wrote a letter to Governor Rick Scott on the family’s behalf in late 2017, requesting that the case be moved from the 20th judicial circuit to be reviews.

Scott has not responded to that request.

Modell said the purpose of the billboard is not to support one candidate for State Attorney over another.

“I think it’s fair to let people know what’s going on, I’ve been patient. I’m not going to be patient any longer,” he said.

Fox’s opponent, defense attorney Chris Crowley, has criticized the State Attorney’s office for the Modell decision. He said he would have a grand jury review the case and make a decision whether or not to try Taylor with murder.

Modell has not donated to Crowley’s campaign according to campaign finance records, but has spoken at campaign events for him.

Fox did not respond to a request for comment.

Samantha Syoen, the Communications Director for the 20th judicial circuit referred WINK news back to the memorandum from 2017 released on the case.

“Nothing has changed since you sat down with senior homicide prosecutor, ASA Dan Feinberg who is the attorney who reviewed the case and made a decision on the case,” said Syoen, via email.

Robert Harris, the attorney for James Taylor’s attorney sent the following statement:

“The State Attorney’s Office, Homicide Division, thoroughly reviewed the case and concluded that they would not be able to prove their case to a jury as they made a finding that Mr. Taylor acted in lawful self-defense. We are all sorry this had to happen, but Mr. Taylor acted to protect his life and his family’s life from an aggressor at their door in the middle of the night.”

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