Feds’ investigation sheds new light on why prosecutors withdrew indictment.
(CNN) – For CNN’s Kera Beatty, the scathing letter offered up by prosecutors offers new insight into why a grand jury’s indictment of former Florida officer Nouman Raja for the murder of Corey Jones was abruptly withdrawn.
“This new information presents a new view of events from multiple, new sources,” the letter read.
That information stems from two hearings conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and Florida Department of Law Enforcement between January and April of this year.
Investigators hope to obtain a third and final hearing in the coming weeks to determine if Raja’s statements at the grand jury hearing in January to an FBI agent can be used as evidence to try him for manslaughter.
In the letter, prosecutors also reveal they placed calls to witnesses connected to video evidence showing Jones’ vehicle and camera was on when he was shot at the intersection of Pine Island Road and Bonita Avenue. Jones was a passenger in a nearby Toyota SUV, whose driver was trying to avoid the shooting, by making a right turn on a green light. That car was not shot.
“We were unable to extract any further information about these individuals from the detective’s notes or the vehicle video. The FBI has not been able to identify anyone from the video because the statements and evidence are destroyed,” the letter read.
If convicted on manslaughter charges, Raja faces life in prison.
CNN is not revealing what information prosecutors were seeking from additional witnesses, except to say it was not from video evidence.
A special prosecutor — Assistant U.S. Attorney Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Levy — initially filed the indictment on Jan. 22. In June, Levy submitted a notice of withdrawal of the indictment, citing, among other reasons, the new information being investigated by the U.S. Justice Department and FDLE.
A special prosecutor was needed because of witness concerns, according to Levy.
The motive for the grand jury’s indictment, which says Raja opened fire on Jones after “justification” based on the “fact” that he believed Jones was armed, remains unclear, since there is no suggestion in the indictment that Raja knew Jones was unarmed.
Raja has maintained he fired in self-defense.
Jones’ mother said after Raja was indicted that family would fight for answers. “My family will protect Corey and all the men and women across the country who are representing my son,” Nilando Jones said.
There is no mention in the indictment of a firearm in Jones’ car. It does, however, suggest that the driver of Jones’ truck had a firearm and was moving the car toward Raja’s police vehicle when Raja opened fire.
Jones was killed in September 2015. Five days after the shooting, Raja was fired from the Riviera Beach Police Department, where he had been since January 2011.
The U.S. Department of Justice began investigating the shooting in July of this year.
In the two earlier hearings, in January and April, neither Raja nor his defense team answered the agents’ questions, according to the federal documents obtained by CNN.
Raja’s attorney Gary Kollin has not responded to repeated calls and emails seeking comment. The other attorneys for Raja have not returned CNN’s request for comment.
Raja’s last appearance before a federal grand jury was in April. He was indicted by that same grand jury, a day before he was fired from the Riviera Beach Police Department.
The report from the special prosecutors says Raja will have a hearing in the coming weeks in which his attorneys “will be asked to provide additional clarification and their reasons for not providing prior information.”
During his last two court appearances, Raja has been a no-show.