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Freedom of speech or an obstruction of justice?

Posted at 10:10 PM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 22:28:07-04

Freedom of speech or an obstruction of justice? A Collier County man said he was arrested because he was driving by a Sheriff's Office investigation and yelled out advice to a suspect.

Ricky Missal felt his right to free speech should protect his actions, but he was handcuffed and taken to jail.

Missal said he has no issues with law enforcement, has friends in the force, and respects what officers do for our community.

The Collier County Sheriffs' Office report said it all started when a woman couldn't pay her $40 taxi fare outside the La Costa community.

Deputies showed up to investigate the situation.

Missal said the cab was parked outside of the community with the squad car behind it. He pulled through the gate, passing the cars on his left.

"I just so happened to be next to the yellow taxicab, so it was just a prime opportunity, and it just kind of struck me, and that's when I blurted out 'Call your lawyer,'" Missal said.

He was arrested and spent the night in jail, charged with obstruction.

"My First Amendment freedom of speech is violated," Missal said.

"So all you said was call your lawyer?" Four in Your Corner's Lisa Greenberg asked Missal.

"That's the one sentence I said was 'Call your lawyer,'" he responded.

The Sheriff's Office report said Missal was yelling in a very confrontational tone. It also said Missal shouted "Don't cooperate with the cops. Don't listen to them. Get a lawyer."

"Yeah, that's what the report says, and I never said any of that," Missal said.

Four in Your Corner reached out to the Collier County Sheriff's Office to see why Missal's actions weren't protected by the First Amendment.

Lt. Drew Lee said over the phone that Missal kept the officer from conducting his investigation because he was forced to leave the taxi case to deal with him.

Missal's Attorney Mike Chionopoulos sees it differently.

"If Mr. Missal had said something that escalated the situation or created some sort of danger or hazard, I would absolutely agree with that," he said.

Missal said he believes the officer didn't have to leave the taxi situation unattended.

"That doesn't seem right, because there was another officer present, so why couldn't she have came and reprimanded me and have the other officer continue with the work he was doing?" he said.

The report also said the officer was in fear of being attacked because he could not tell if Missal was armed or not.

The Collier County Sheriff's Office said deputies respect the right to free speech, and it's not about what was said or how it was said, just that it was keeping the officer from his investigation.

Missal said he's hoping the dashcam video will help exonerate him.