Fired DCF investigator granted pre-trial release

Shani Smith accused of falsifying records before death of toddler

MIAMI – A Miami-Dade County judge has granted a pre-trial release of a former Department of Children and Families case worker who was arrested Wednesday.

Shani Smith, 35, was seen walking out of jail about 5:30 p.m. Thursday. A judge ordered her to wear a GPS ankle monitor until her next court appearance.

Smith was fired by the DCF for allegedly falsifying records relating to the 2013 death of an 11-month-old boy who was left in his mother's hot car. She is charged with six counts of official misconduct.

The toddler's mother, Catalina Bruno, was arrested on May 17, 2013, the day after she left her baby boy, Brian Osceola, in the back seat of a hot car outside the family's west Miami-Dade County home. Bruno was drunk at the time and was driving with a suspended license.

After spending a year in jail, Bruno agreed to a plea deal and was sentenced to time served.

Despite her denials, DCF officials fired Smith, saying she had falsified reports about referring Bruno for alcohol assessment.

An investigation also found that Smith had never received the required state certification to work as a child protective investigator.

Smith's attorney has accused the DCF of making her a scapegoat over Osceola's death.

The state wanted Smith's bond set at $10,000 for each count, but attorney David Kubiliun pushed for pre-trial services, which Smith was granted. Kubiliun said he was "very content with the decision."

Thursday's decision is just the first step in a long legal fight to exonerate his client, who's maintained her innocence from the start, Kubilian said.

"These are just allegations and we're prepared to fight this all the way to the end," Kubiliun said.

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