Former BSO Deputy Scot Peterson bonds out of jail

Disgraced former Parkland school deputy released after judge reduces bond amount

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Disgraced former Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Scot Peterson was released from jail Thursday afternoon, hours after a Broward County judge reduced his bond.

Peterson, 56, did not speak to reporters as he walked out of jail, accompanied by his attorney.

Peterson is charged with seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury in connection with the Parkland school shooting that left 17 people dead.

Broward County Judge Jackie Powell previously set Peterson's bond at $102,000 and ordered that he remain in jail until he surrenders his passport.

Peterson's attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo, told the judge that Peterson's passport was in North Carolina, where he now lives. His request to grant Peterson's release so they can retrieve it was denied.

During Thursday's hearing, Broward County Judge Elizabeth Scherer reduced the bond for the child neglect charges to $5,000 each and modified the terms of his pre-trial release, allowing him to leave the state.

"We're obviously very happy with the judge's decision today," DiRuzzo said. "We believe that Judge Scherer treated Mr. Peterson fairly and kindly like every other criminal defendant that appears before her court."

DiRuzzo is arguing that the legal definition of being a "caregiver" is not applicable in Peterson's case because Florida law exempts Peterson, in his role as a school resource deputy.

"There is no conceivable explanation for how Peterson, a uniformed police officer serving as the school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, could qualify as a 'caregiver' under the statute," DiRuzzo wrote in his motion to reduce bond and modify the conditions of pre-trial release.

DiRuzzo believes the court should vacate all seven counts of child neglect and allow Peterson to be released on his own recognizance.

"If there ever was a criminal defendant who qualifies to be released on his own recognizance it is Mr. Peterson," DiRuzzo wrote. "There can be no reasonable contention that, as a former law enforcement officer, he is a danger to the community or that he will fail to appear before this court at all hearings."

Disgraced former Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Scot Peterson stares out into the courtroom after learning that his bond would be reduced, June 6, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Disgraced former Broward Sheriff's Office Deputy Scot Peterson stares out into the courtroom after learning that his bond would be reduced, June 6, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrested Peterson after a 14-month investigation into the actions -- or inaction -- of law enforcement during the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting.

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said Peterson "did absolutely nothing to mitigate" the shooting.

"There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives," Swearingen said.

DiRuzzo said his client was taken into custody, "unbeknownst to us," after attending an administrative hearing Tuesday at BSO headquarters.

"I believe it was orchestrated," DiRuzzo said, adding that his client would have gladly surrendered had they been notified in advance.

John Kazanjian, president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, said Peterson's failure to protect the students and staff "on that horrific day were unconscionable" and "not representative of the brave men and women" who serve as school resource officers throughout the state.

"Although our Association does not condone Deputy Peterson's actions, the ramifications of charging a law enforcement officer with a criminal act as a caregiver is highly concerning and likely to have unintended and unprecedented consequences for good law enforcement officers in the future," Kazanjian said.