• Judge to decide if Osceola County bait-bike arrests warrant trials


    OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. - A judge heard arguments Monday in a case in which Osceola County deputies put out bait money in an effort to catch thieves.
    Channel 9's Nancy Alvarez reported on the operation in which deputies left an unattended bicycle and a purse full of cash at an Osceola County bus stop.
    Many of those arrested were homeless.
    On Monday the sergeant in charge of the operation testified that the cash was inside the purse and you couldn't see it unless you looked inside.
    Almost everyone arrested said the money was hanging out of the purse. That is one reason their attorney said his clients had no intention of stealing.
    In May, James Custode described to Alvarez the moment he spotted cash, which he said was spilling out of a purse hanging on a bike on U.S. Route 192.
    On Monday he went through it again in court.
    "Ninety-eight percent of the money was hanging out, almost like dangling out of the front pocket of the pocketbook," Custode said.
    Sheriff's surveillance video shows just how quickly Custode's arrest happened.
    Custode, who is homeless, said he thought the bike was abandoned and took the cash out of desperation.
    Denise Kennealy lives in a motel near the bus stop where police set up the bike. She said she felt the same way Custode did.
    Kennealy said she had never been arrested before, but seconds after she grabbed the cash she was in handcuffs.
    After Alvarez's initial investigation into the arrests aired, longtime Kissimmee defense attorney Don Waggoner stepped up to represent the people arrested, free of charge. 
    On Monday he argued the operation was simply entrapment, and all the cases should be thrown out. 
    Sheriff's officials said they stand by the operation and said they did it because of a surge in thefts in the area. 
    The judge will decide next week if the cases will move forward to a jury.

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    Judge to decide if Osceola County bait-bike arrests warrant trials