A Question of Trust

This week, The Daytona Beach News-Journal broke the disturbing story of Colton Phillips – the son of Tim Phillips, owner of P&S Paving, described by the News-Journal as “one of the most successful businesses in Daytona Beach,” and a member of the incredibly powerful CEO Business Alliance – a young man who just three years ago “…faced up to 15 years in prison for his role in what investigators called the “The Colton Phillips Drug Trafficking Organization…”

This is no reflection on the Phillips family.  Kids will embarrass you.  That’s what they do. 

Some grow out of it.  Others, not so much.

But this goes beyond youthful indiscretion. . .

In 2018, investigators from the East Volusia Narcotics Task Force found Colton Phillips and his co-conspirators in possession of some 2.8 pounds of cocaine, 4.25 pounds of methamphetamine, vials of testosterone, marijuana, “a large amount of cash,” computers, and drug paraphernalia at his Daytona Beach home. 

According to the report, the organization was suspected of importing one kilogram of cocaine into Volusia County from California each month.  In turn, Phillips sold the illicit drugs to his roommate – identified as Arad Radfar – who then trafficked the substance on something called the “dark web.” 

From what I gather, this wasn’t the most sophisticated bunch of dopers in that shadowy world – something akin to a spoiled Little Lord Fauntleroy meets Miami Vice story – openly communicating their nefarious activities via text message, shipping cocaine through the mail, and employing some drug-addled kid as a runner.

Regardless, the cost in lives destroyed and the corrosive impact of illicit drugs on our community is incalculable.    

According to the outstanding reportage of the News-Journal’s Frank Fernandez, in 2019, all public records related to the Phillips case were mysteriously sealed and “vanished from public view” for more than a year. 

In October 2020, an attorney for Gannett, the parent company of The Daytona Beach News-Journal, was successful in having the documents unsealed and open for public view later that year.

According to reports, in November 2018, State Attorney R. J. Larizza’s office “…filed nine charges against Phillips. They included three first-degree felonies including trafficking in cocaine more than 400 grams and trafficking in methamphetamine, as well as multiple third-degree felony and misdemeanor drug charges.

Phillips entered a plea of no contest to all nine counts in his plea agreement. Based on sentencing guidelines filed in the case, he scored a lowest permissible prison sentence of 179.40 months, which works out to 14.95 years in state prison.”

Officials say that following his arrest, Colton Phillips provided substantial assistance in ancillary investigations – cooperation which earned him an unheard-of plea deal of 15-years’ probation, forfeiture of two vehicles, $19,020 in cash, and reimbursement for costs associated with the investigation – while his co-conspirator, Radfar, was deported to Iran on an immigration violation where he was most likely welcomed home a national hero for helping weaken the fabric of our society. . .

In addition, Phillips was specifically prohibited by the terms of his probation from consuming alcohol – and reports indicate he spent a stint in a residential rehabilitation facility. 

“The plea deal waived a fine of $262,000” and prosecutors put aside minimum mandatory sentences paving the way for the extended probation. 

Plea agreements are nothing new – they happen every day and are an important part of our criminal justice system – especially for first time offenders like Phillips – and I believe the State Attorney’s spokesman who said, “All actions taken by every agency involved in this case were appropriate efforts to achieve the investigatory goals of utilizing the “dark web” to seize illegal drugs and disrupt their distribution networks locally and nationally.”

He also had a damn fine criminal defense attorney in Aaron Delgado.

But given the serious nature of the charges – Colton’s “deal” left many questioning whether his family’s prominence and powerful political connections had more to do with the extraordinary leniency he received than any information he provided. 

Because that is the sorry state of the public’s trust in once unquestioned institutions here on the Fun Coast – a place where political influence is seemingly traded like a commodity through a skewed campaign finance process, and people frequently confuse the size of someone’s bank account with their civic vision, confusing selfishness with altruism, something that has cost local government the confidence of its constituents – and resulted in every policy or legislative action subject to the question, ‘Who benefits?’      

Is that accurate?  I hope not.

But from hard-earned experience I know perception is reality in matters of official fairness – and our criminal justice system stands or falls on the trust and respect of those it exists to serve.  That is why those who serve within it have such a high duty to defend the integrity of the process.    

Inconceivably, after being given what Circuit Judge Dennis Craig described as “The deal of the century” – supervised probation which specifically prohibits Phillips from visiting bars or consuming alcohol – in late August, Colton Phillips was found in a blatant state of intoxication – I’m talkin’ shitfaced – clearly in actual physical control of his running pick-up truck in a parking lane at Biggins Gentlemen’s Club in Daytona Beach Shores. 

Yeah.  You read that right.

An employee of the establishment confirmed that Phillips drank a beer (before being cut off due to his state of intoxication) inside the bar. 

Let’s just say things went downhill from there. . .

I spent my entire adult life in law enforcement, coming up through the ranks, working in every operational and administrative post in my agency – including extensive experience in narcotics investigations – and I know better than most the physical and political pitfalls inherent to serving and protecting from the impossible damned if you do, damned if you don’t position behind a badge.

That is why I rarely second-guess the on-scene decisions of working police officers – but what happened during this encounter is undeniably confusing – and concerning.   

For reasons that remain murky, rather than arrest Phillips for the obvious DUI – the officers also opted to release Colton on his own recognizance for the glaring probation violation – then an on-duty Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety officer gave him a “courtesy ride” home. 

In explaining her call to another officer, as seen on a body-worn camera video, the officer is overheard saying, “This is not a traditional way we handle things.  But it’s making the best of what could be a messy situation.”

Non-traditional?

Messy?

Yeah.  I know. . .

Fortunately, the officer clearly made the decision to release Phillips before he pulled the old “Do you know who I am?” jive – directing an investigating officer to, “Look up who my dad is” – then slurring his way through a blathering explanation of the area roads his father’s company has paved.

When the investigating officer asked Colton who is father was, he dropped “Tim Phillips” like he was laying down a Royal Flush. . .   

After that, things got, well, weird.

As the field interview continued, one young officer gushed about how “my chick” was at the Phillips’ “place” (a Flagler County ranch owned by Tim Phillips) in Bunnell the day before – mentioning other prominent names who were apparently also in attendance – before reminding Colton of the obvious:

“Your dad is a very wealthy man.”

Yeah.  Ugh

Then, after officers assumed the extraordinary liability of directing an employee of Biggins to park Colton’s truck (?) – because he was too “twisted” to drive it – Phillips was given a “courtesy ride” home. . .

Jesus.

As a crusty retired police supervisor said to me after watching the disturbing video, “I thought we stopped giving drunks a ride home twenty-years ago? – then proceeded to recite a litany of good officers and former law enforcement executives who had their careers ruined over the mere appearance of favoritism in criminal cases.     

There is a kernel of wisdom in that for the young officers depicted in this video.    

To their credit, the Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety charged Phillips for the probation violation, and he will appear before Judge Craig to answer for his actions in November.

Trust me.  Many will be watching to see if Colton’s string of extraordinary luck continues – or if he gets a wake-up call – a dose of reality beyond the six-month curfew suggested by the Office of Community Corrections. 

It is important, because Mr. Phillips’ unusual good fortune now has many questioning the basic fairness and impartiality of our justice system.

That is unacceptable. 

Look, I am familiar with many of the public officials and prosecutors involved in the News-Journal article – all dedicated professionals, including DBSPS Director Stephan Dembinsky, who is one of the finest law enforcement executives I know – and I consider them honorable people who perform a difficult and dangerous job protecting our community and seeking justice with great skill. 

They do not need a washed-up has-been like me to lecture them from the comfort of a Barcalounger regarding the perception of preferential treatment for some entitled poor little rich kid with a silver spoon – who, by all appearances, could give two-shits about the provisions of his generous probation.    

As the News-Journal’s article rightly pointed out, “While the decision not to take Phillips to jail or charge him with DUI may have been questionable, it did not appear to have anything to do with the prominence of his father, Tim Phillips, owner of P&S Paving and a member of the CEO Business Alliance.”

But there is no denying that the suggestion of privilege and undue advantage is what made this story newsworthy in the first place – and why I felt compelled to write about it’s corrosive effect on the public trust.  

The fact is, even the insinuation of favoritism and cronyism undermines the foundational underpinnings of our system – the assurance of basic fairness and impartiality – where no one is above, or beneath, the law.

Unfortunately, many in the community who have reached out to me since this sordid story broke feel very differently about the appearance of things. . . 

That loss of confidence in our system of justice disturbs me more than watching the life of a clearly troubled young man unravel like a cheap spool of rotten yarn in full view of the community he continues to thumb his nose at.

Like many of you, I sincerely hope Colton Phillips gets the help he needs – and our community receives the protection from this irresponsible behavior we deserve.    

19 thoughts on “A Question of Trust

  1. Watched cable last night and they showed how George Soros and Zuckerberg and many other billionaires give campaign donations of millions to all those who never prosecute people like Hunter Biden or ANTIFA or BLM.Got a call from a friend in NYC to tell me he went out for a dinner in Manhattan and watching people going to legal shoot up stations with free syringes.Why do we read a story of a guy who just killed a cop who had 35 or more felonies and why was this dirtybag out? Not to stretch the issue but what happened to the two kids who got guns and ammo shooting at cops trying to hide behind trees in Deltona? The justice system is corrupt as money gets certain people jobs in our justice system and the people who made big donations for them to get that job now have their donors agenda.I really dont care about this mutt who got away with lots of shit here as 4000 shot and 700 dead last year in Chicago and how many arrested and it continues this year just check this weekends current numbers.Nothing happens.It is people in office that let this shit happen and if someone comes along to try and fix it the famous word racist comes right out in the media .Please Mark using the DBNJ as a reference is useless as I dont read it anymore as Dem agenda Gannett now has reporters begging for subscribers in all their 247 rags before they give you the report from 2 day ago news.I have been around a long time and this is as bad as I have ever seen it .Vote in Virginia and we need to vote in 2022 and 2024 here.I am a dem for 55 years.I was called a racist by a neighbor because I said why did the Capital cop have nothing done when he left his gun in a bathroom.Then I said he killed an unarmed woman in the Capital riot and nothing happened to him and still on the job with a high rank.Happy Halloween .

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  2. Kids life is over. But I’m sure he’ll have a full book at commissary in jail. My thoughts are with the parents. Losing a children is parents worst nitemare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ted I am not happy with this country as I see many people let go with no bail for worse than this guy did.Yes I feel bad for the parents but when my uncle a NY cop got shot 30 years ago at 40 years old the young guy who did it went to jail.What happens today.No bail.State attorney generals are bought like I said earlier.Why do you think Facebook is now Meta?Maybe it is time for a parent to have enough brains to know what their kids are doing.I have no feelings about his sentence as one of the biggest pieces of garbage Hunter Biden is now an artist making million on this as he should be in jail.Let me ask you our head of the dept of transportation Mayor Pete who took 2 months off for maternity leave as we have a bad joke on the west coast was asked this morning by Chris Wallace when will we stop the back up of goods at port and he said after the pandemic.Do you trust big government as China did not show up at the climate conference today.
      Big government is a joke.Ask DeSantis and he says bring the containers to Florida.

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  3. Mark, you offer no evidence whatsoever in support of your thinly-veiled suggestions that money (and the attendant power it brings) could influence legal proceedings. If you would do some simple internet research before you spout off, you would discover that P&S Paving has only been a very small ($500) contributor to any of State Attorney Larizza’s campaigns. If you add up all contributions made to local candidates by the business, the owner personally and his Phillips Ranch, LLC the total is still well under $20,000 in the last few years. And Colton’s father is a staunch supporter of the Blue, having given $10,750 to Floridians For Law Enforcement PAC. The judge involved (full disclosure: I know and greatly respect Judge Craig and admire his contribution to the Volusia County judicial system) doesn’t appear to have ever received money from anyone connected to Colton and, in fact, Judge Craig accepted no contributions whatsoever to his recent re-election campaign. I’m sure all of your readers who drop multiple $1,000 checks into campaign coffers and PAC’s on a regular basis resent your implications.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I appreciate your comment it was true and I am very glad that someone could see through this your article is so childish I am appalled because this is my family it is not a joke it’s not funny and it was not taken lightly by anyone but you with your smart comments and whatnot you have no proof nor anything of what has happened or what is behind and has to do with this family who by the way are very good people and very good parents you don’t know anything about this family your article was no better than what he did you you are childish and I’m cannot even believe that you thought that article was good

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  4. Best, most informative Barker’s View I’ve read. (Perhaps also explains how a recent Daytona commissioner could afford a dream home in Ormond with a potentially hefty fee for representation.) Hope the judge who handles the parole violation is honest and upstanding.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “No, this is a mistake for you. I’m a France, we own this city.”

    JC France circa 2009 talking to a cop pulled over on the side of the road Ridgewood Avenue Holly Hill Florida.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This is obviously just a coincidence folks. It has nothing to do with his dad. Who by the way is buddies with Flagler County Sheriff Staley. If you don’t understand those cops knew who this kid was before they engaged him you are not being intellectually honest. That kid was shitfaced, on probation, about to drive out of a bar drunk, had open containers on back floorboard. And no arrest?
      I will say there might be 2 open positions for Daytona Beach Shores Police Officers.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Why would you assume that? I made a simple statement quoting (actually I mistakenly I transposed the word animals with pigs) the book Animal Farm that encompass many situations in which money, power and politics are great motivators. Make of it what you will, but do not try to put words in my mouth.

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  6. Probably get deleted but Carl lentz IV never met an infraction his money couldn’t deflect….
    Similarities are undeniable
    Yes money buys get out of jail free cards
    Whatever……..

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  7. i sincerely hope Colton gets the help he needs as well; however, I doubt it. Sad, but true. I know his Mom from a long time ago & she’s a sweetie – he comes from a good family and has had every advantage handed to him on a silver platter. Unfortunately, he screwed it all up. He got the “deal of the century” and shit on that, too. While he’s very young, at 25, he should have a bit more of his act together. If that were my African American neighbor, I’m sure he’d still be in lock-up and wouldn’t have any deal from the State Attorney – I’m not saying anything bad about Mr. Larizza at all – I’m just saying our system is indeed broken and the “appearance” as you mentioned does make all the difference. I’m sure that Phillips’ family and business have never donated too much money to anyone’s campaign – you can’t – that’s all transparent and public record – that’s grumpy people shooting off their mouths. But. When a 25 y/o white privileged male tells a cop to “F” off and gets physical w/him (actually 21 at the time) and then gets busted for the drug thing, followed by DWLS over & over after the “deal of the century” you know he hasn’t learned his lesson. Throw him in rehab. If that doesn’t work, Put him in jail. Mama’s tough love. I’d do it to my kid.

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  8. If you (Steven Burk) don’t think the fact Colton’s father owns P&S paving and that it has nothing to do with the favorable treatment he received, you sir are the problem.
    “While the decision not to take Phillips to jail or charge him with DUI may have been questionable, it did not appear to have anything to do with the prominence of his father, Tim Phillips, owner of P&S Paving and a member of the CEO Business Alliance.” The key word here is “appear”

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    1. Ken I hate to say this as I am or was a Dem for 55 years but President of the National Teachers Union who has a salary over 400k Randi Weingaterten appeared yesterday with Terry McAuliffe to back him.95%of all political donations from the teachers union go to the Dem party .You pay your dues and it doesnt matter if you are a Republican.I believe having her backing him with all the donation money is a sure sign he will lose Virginia.Money buys a Clinton Foundation and Trump.Time to realize money is some peoples God.Locally we have a mayor who got elected twice who farmed mail in ballots and others with deep pockets from builders.

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  9. Prohibiting the possession of drugs begets corruption in all corners society. In politics, law enforcement, juris prudence, and everything it touches. People are not puritans.

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  10. I worked for the patriarch of the Phillips family for a few seasons . Volusia county is Florida’s dirty secret .. and Daytona beach is Florida’s dirty deed . I hate to say it but there’ are plenty of other young people doing the same thing Colton is accused of as I’m writing this currently,,,,, as this area almost breeds not the worst in people ,,,,, but damn close . I wish Colton would spend a year with his grandfather. I’ve known many men from all social classes that had no “ class “ at all . But coltons grandfather……… is an exceptional human …. And a very good man, and I don’t care for the modern definition of ….. “ good men “ . I think spending some time with him would shake out the dirt…. and instill a sense of duty to his community, family and Creator that may have been overlooked . Money ….. power…. And influence mean nothing to me in regards to this story . Coltons life and how it’s lived in the future …… do . We all make mistakes . I’m 55 years of age and have made plenty . I urge others to leave this family alone . They worked harder than you can imagine to get what they earned . They surrounded themselves with our areas best . Along the way a childs real needs may have been inadvertently overlooked. If your a parent …… you know what I mean , as this may apply to you as well . My point ……. All things come to pass . I don’t judge Colton or his family . I truly pray daily that they heal . And find what really matters ……. Solace, peace and love . Maybe we should all focus on that . Travel well with a full heart , and give effort where and when it’s required . That’s what holds nations and families…… together . CFS

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