Attorney-client privilege debate at center of murder hearing.
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The attorney for Mario Fernandez filed a motion to disqualify the State Attorney’s Office due to a violation of attorney-client privilege.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Much of the conversation in court on Friday was about an issue of attorney-client privilege as it relates to Mario Fernandez, a co-defendant in the trial of the people accused of murdering Jared Bridegan, a father of 4 from St. Johns County.

Fernandez’s attorney Jesse Dreicer filed a motion to disqualify the entire State Attorney’s Office because of a potential breach of attorney-client privilege. The State acknowledged that some emails and a text message between Fernandez and his attorney were uploaded into evidence.

“Those emails that they concede are attorney client privilege were uploaded to Nextpoint by the state’s own admission,” said Dreicer during court, “they have been able to be accessed at a minimum by anyone at Nextpoint, by law enforcement or by the State Attorney’s Office.”

According to filings from the State Attorney’s Office, the State claims the uploading of those documents was done accidentally by a 3rd party vendor. The State also says they notified the defense teams and disabled the platform Nextpoint on November 15th when the upload was realized.

Part of the State’s response to the motion to disqualify reads:

“Courtesy, cooperation, integrity, fair play and abiding by a sense of honor are paramount for preserving the integrity of the profession.” 

But that touched a nerve with co-defendant Shanna Gardner’s attorney Jose Baez.

“There’s nothing more sacred in our profession than the attorney-client privilege, you have to understand how delicate the matter is,” said Baez after court.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, the State had a Google search warrant for Fernandez’s devices and the search returned a document titled “Confidential Communications”, which contained a spread sheet with text messages between Fernandez and Henry Tenon, who pleased guilty to 2nd degree murder in this case. The State said no attorney-client information was located in the “Confidential Communications” spreadsheet. 

The State also said that Fernandez obtained a lawyer before he was arrested and that the emails and text message at issue occurred prior to charges even being filed against him. But the judge in this case told Fernandez that she intends to preserve his right to attorney-client privilege.

“That is a veil that can not ever be lifted unless and until you decide,” said Judge London M. Kite during the hearing.

A separate and independent circuit court judge will review the facts in this case and determine if a violation of attorney-client privilege occurred. If that judge rules it did occur then Judge Kite will conduct a disqualification hearing.

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