Did Belle Isle city leader pull strings to stop friend's son from being arrested


BELLE ISLE, Fla. - 9 Investigates whether a Belle Isle city leader pulled some strings to stop his friend's son from being arrested.

A sergeant claims he was ordered to release the suspect after the city manager made a phone call to Belle Isle Police Chief Tom Jackson.

Channel 9's Kathi Belich confronted the chief and learned a bigger investigation could now be in the works.

According to a report obtained by Belich, two brothers got into a fight and one was placed under arrest until the sergeant got a call from Jackson.

Belich asked Jackson whether his sergeant's accusation in the report were true, that the chief ordered the sergeant to release Ian Smith after a call from the city manager, who's friends with the suspect's father.

"The father asked him, 'Is (the) arrest mandatory? Does my son need to go to jail?'" said Jackson. "I called back the sergeant. 'Is this mandatory? Any other options we can exercise? We'll still file with the state attorney. Is this acceptable?'"

But according to the report, the sergeant said he only released Smith after having a seven-minute conversation with Jackson.

Jackson, however, said he did not order the sergeant to release the suspect.

Smith wasn't taken to jail and wasn’t fingerprinted or photographed.

Prosecutors are deciding whether to file a charge.

The sergeant also wrote that the chief said unarresting Smith could help with city hall, but Jackson said he didn’t recall saying that.

"That's a pretty serious thing to say.  If you don't arrest this could help us across the street.  You don't recall saying that?" asked Belich.

"No, ma'am," said Jackson.

"So you don't deny saying that, you just don't remember?" said Belich.

"I don't recall saying that. It's normally not something I would say," said Jackson.

Belle Isle City Manager Keith Severns told Channel 9 he golfs with Smith's father and admitted calling the chief about the arrest, but he said he was not looking to get in the middle of anything and didn't want any part of it.

Belich asked the chief what's next. 

"You're saying he wrote a report that is not true," said Jackson. "I think we're going to take a look at this."

Jackson said he's considering asking an outside agency to investigate.