Gunman and grieving family from 2016 stand your ground case sue each other

Reporter: Lauren Sweeney
Published: Updated:
Sandy Modell, left, is all smiles with his son, Ryan, right.

Ryan Modell was killed in south Fort Myers in March 2016. WINK News investigative reporter Lauren Sweeney has extensively covered the State Attorney’s decision not to prosecute Modell’s shooter.

A man who killed another down the street from his condominium in March 2016 is suing the father of the man he killed. Meantime, that father has a pending wrongful death suit against the shooter.

James Taylor claimed he was in fear for his life when he shot and killed Ryan Modell. The state attorney decided not to file criminal charges against Taylor, citing Florida’s stand your ground law.

Modell, 32, was drunk and was mistakenly trying to enter the Taylors’ condominium according to statements given to police after the shooting.

Taylor shot and killed Modell in the driveway of a neighboring unit after an initial confrontation at his front door. He told deputies Modell had charged at him and he thought he was going to die.

Modell’s father has consistently questioned Taylor’s self-defense claim. Sandy Modell has hired attorneys to try to get the Governor to have a special prosecutor re-examine the case. He even took out a billboard along US-41 where he criticized the state attorney for not filing charges.

In 2018 he filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Taylor.

In a 2019 defamation suit, Taylor claims that Modell’s lawsuit has bankrupted him and caused his wife to contemplate suicide.

Attorney Matthew Toll, who is representing Taylor, said the case is primarily based on the billboard that referred to Taylor as a ‘murderer’. The billboard did not mention Taylor by name.

“Aside from the obvious absurdity, this was just done as legal extortion to get me to drop a civil suit,” said Sandy Modell.

Modell said that depositions from both Taylor and his wife during the wrongful death lawsuit provide new evidence in the case. In the depositions, Taylor says he had closed the door to keep Modell out and was inside for around 30 seconds before he ventured outside with his gun in hand. This occurred after his wife had already called 911.

His wife, Patrice, said in the deposition it was between two and four minutes after her husband shut the door that he went outside.

“The significance is these are two separate events. That’s tantamount as a confession on the killer’s part, he is saying he’s back in his unit safe,” said Modell.

Taylor, through his attorney, declined an interview with WINK News.

In an email Toll laid out Taylor’s ‘affirmative defenses’ to the wrongful death lawsuit. Among them:

“Even outside of one’s home, Florida law permits one to ‘stand your ground’ in these unfortunate situations,” Toll wrote.

The state attorney’s office stands by its decision not to charge Taylor and a spokesperson has previously told WINK News she did not wish to comment further.

Both the wrongful death and defamation suits are ongoing.

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