Attorney steps up to help with defense in homeless baiting cases

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. —

A long-time Kissimmee lawyer is fighting for the rights of homeless men and woman he believes were unfairly targeted.

Last week, a 9 Investigates story revealed deputies left a bike with a purse full of cash and a laptop at an Osceola County bus stop.

Ten people, most of them homeless, were arrested for allegedly taking the bait, and four of those suspects are still sitting in the Osceola County Jail a month after the sting. 

When attorney Don Waggoner saw Channel 9's story, he said he was outraged.  

"I don't see how this solves a problem," he said. "You don't know these people are the thieves you are looking for. You don't know they are thieves. You just put temptation in their paths."

Waggoner is working to represent all of the people arrested for free.  Most of them are homeless, including Crystal Astbury, who has a criminal record in Maine but said she moved to central Florida to start over.

Astbury first lived in the woods and then a motel.

"I moved down here hoping to better myself, and I feel like I'm going backward," she said.

According to the State Attorney’s Office, Astbury’s case and two others are still under review.

The charges against Ivan Morgan was dropped for lack of evidence. 

The sheriff's office stands by the operation. 

"We don't target groups, we target individuals who break the law," said spokeswoman Twis Lizasuain.

Waggoner said he's still working to see evidence but said arguing entrapment in court may be an option. 

When asked why he decided to take the cases on, Waggoner said, "I like making sure people don't get screwed over by the system. Once in a while somebody can't help themselves, and they need help and can't get it.  That's the situation here." 

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