The Shirking of Responsibility
At the behest of court appointed guardian ad litem, Hugh Cotney, a motion was filed in late January to have Public Defender Matt Shirk replaced as counsel for Cristian Fernandez. While the team of prominent attorneys led by Hank Coxe are not new to the case, having been involved with seeking to have the charge of sexual battery filed against Cristian dismissed, they are eminently more qualified to defend him.
Shirk’s initial response was muted before lamenting “It has taken a long time to build a trust in the attorney-client relationship”. He knew his time was nigh but that didn’t stop him from baring his claws with “Let’s look at it for what it is. If I were in private practice, you live by the almighty dollar” which is curious, given his political affiliations and background. In addition, he churlishly suggested the new attorneys were only interested in taking the case due to its high profile and that it was good for drumming up business.
Coxe responded unequivocally “We are collectively – and incredibly – disappointed with Mr. Shirk’s perception of our profession and its obligations”. A more than reasonable assessment.
Shirk had resorted previously to Facebook in an attempt to placate supporters of Cristian and did so again on the Save Cristian Fernandez page (left). Again, some were grateful for his efforts and others less forgiving with asides such as “Amen!”, “YES!” and “Great news!” in response to the news of his removal. Shirk’s ineffectual “I think you are underestimating how hard my office worked on behalf of Cristian” was lost on many, with some knowing how little he had done for Cristian by his own admission in an email to the State Attorney’s Office.
Lost in a world of his own self importance and social gatherings to strengthen his re-election bid, Shirk could not even file a motion with the court to have Cristian appear unshackled during pre-trial hearings. Yet again it was left to supporters to bring pressure to bare and petition the court to see that it is done.
He spoke often of the “remarkable little boy” he was supposed to be defending against a villainous prosecutor and after promising (along with investigator Paul Pinkham) to attend the February 8th rally for Cristian at the Duval County Courthouse, he not only failed to appear but offered that it had “not been a good day” and that “he had some things that came up” when questioned as to his absence. It seems his caring for Cristian had ceased the day he was removed from the case, if not earlier.
The “$200,000 to $300,000 in future costs” which Shirk says his replacements will save the taxpayer should go part way toward footing the bill for the $230,000 he and his office were paid, essentially under false pretenses.
With Shirk out of the picture and a team of well credentialed, experienced attorneys to defend him, the future is looking somewhat brighter for Cristian Fernandez.