Cassandra Smith, accused of killing Charlotte County Deputy Christopher Taylor in a November DUI crash, was denied bond for a second time on Friday.
Judge Geoffrey Gentile denied Smith bond the first time because the November DUI arrest was not the first time law enforcement said she was caught drinking and driving. An attorney who looked over the case—Lance Dunford of the Scott T. Moorey law firm—says the judge overseeing Friday’s hearing will either issue a bond or keep Smith in the same status she is in right now. Gentile ordered her to stay behind bars, feeling she could be a danger to the community.
In the video from her prior DUI arrest in Palm Beach, the 30-year-old woman can be heard slurring her words and can be seen failing sobriety tests, unable to stand on one leg or recite the alphabet.
“That’s the thing; I need to protect the community,” said Gentile. “I find that the bond… or even the scramblers, that those things don’t do… nothing blows up and stop somebody from getting a car after they’ve drank, and driving fast. So, I can’t protect the community. And she’s shown twice that needs to happen in very short order. Twice in two years.”
Gentile did oversee Friday’s hearing; Judge Scott Cupp oversaw the proceeding this time around.
Smith’s attorney failed to convince Cupp that she was not a danger to the community nor a flight risk. Smith’s attorney had asked for a $250,000 bond, a GPS monitoring bracelet, and any other conditions the court deemed fit.
The state argued that there were no conditions that would be acceptable other than her remaining in jail.
Family and friends of Charlotte County Deputy Christopher Taylor walked into the courtroom Friday and looked straight into the eyes of Cassandra Smith.
“She didn’t learn from her mistakes. And that’s why we make mistakes so that we can learn from them and go on and do the right thing. I don’t ever remember Christopher doing anything wrong. Except being a teenager,” said Joanne Corliss, Deputy Taylor’s grandmother.
Corliss showed up to Smith’s bond hearing for one reason. “I really wanted to have her to see us and know that he has so many people. Those that are sad and they will never get to experience, maybe a wedding, maybe grandkids great grandkids, birthdays, holidays. It’s that I wanted her to see that he was from a great family.”
Smith faces DUI manslaughter charges for the death of Deputy Taylor.
He was performing a traffic stop on I-75 when crash investigators say Smith lost control and hit Taylor.
The scene from November 22, 2022, will forever haunt Corliss. “We just passed his flag on the highway. And it brought back memories of the people on the overpasses. With their hands on their hearts and signs that said, ‘thank you, Chris.’ That meant so much to us.”
His family and friends filled three courtroom benches. They listened as Smith’s lawyer argued she should be freed on bond.
“This is somebody where the idea is a lesson wasn’t learned, somebody continues to make a mistake, accidents continue to happen, not an intended evil that goes out looking to hurt or harm,” said Smith’s defense attorney.
The judge didn’t buy it; his ruling Friday was no bond.
“I was just kind of glad for her that she’s not going to be put in a position to do this again. And I felt really, I didn’t feel happy. You don’t feel things like this,” said Corliss.
Corliss knows she’ll never hug her grandson again, but she prays to feel justice for him.
During the bond hearing, the state attorney said Smith’s blood alcohol level measured .285 hours after the crash. The state attorney estimates her blood alcohol level was closer to .300 when her car hit Deputy Taylor. That’s nearly four times the legal limit.