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Trial against man accused of molestation tossed out; Judge rules mentally handicapped, female victim incompetent to testify

By Staff | Sep 18, 2008

The State Attorney’s Office has dropped charges against a bus driver accused of molesting a mentally handicapped woman in 2007.

Charges of lewd and lascivious battery and molestation filed against Colive Raymond Cabral, 62, a former employee of Florida Habilitation Network Inc., were dropped Sept. 2 after Lee Circuit Judge Thomas Reese ruled the alleged victim was incompetent to testify before a jury in Cabral’s pending trial.  

Reese also ruled the testimony of state witnesses such as friends and family members the complainant had told about Cabral’s alleged offenses to be hearsay.

“He has maintained a statement of innocence since day one,” said Scott Moorey, Cabral’s defense attorney.

The woman was the primary witness against Cabral and a crux of the state’s case. 

“The only evidence against Mr. Cabral was the statement of the complainant,” Moorey said.

The State Attorneys Office dropped charges the day the trial was set to begin.

“We were prepared to go to trial,” said State Attorney’s Office spokesperson Samantha Syoen. “If you can’t have the victim tell what happened … you can’t move forward. We were forced to nolle prosse the trial.”

Moorey said Noelle Charlet, lead attorney for the case, brought motions prior to trial regarding the competence and admissibility of state witness testimony.

“I don’t mean any disrespect to the victim in the case,” Moorey said. “There were discrepancies in the accounts that were given.”

Cabral was arrested in April 2007 after the complainant told a Lee County sergeant with the Special Victims Unit that Cabral assaulted her in the bus used to drive her to and from a Special Populations school at several Cape Coral and Fort Myers locations.

He was released from the Lee County Jail several days later on $20,000 bond, according to booking records.

Cabral pleaded not guilty to all counts in May 2007.

“I was pleased to hear the news that the case has been nolle prossed,” said Cabral’s former employer, Florida Habilitation Network Inc. Director of Operations Cole Caruso. “I had complete faith in our legal system.”

Since Cabral was accused in 2007, the company has changed its safety policies by placing assisting staff on vans used to drive handicapped passengers, and is employing more stringent paper records of where vans are located during the day, Caruso said.

Additionally, employees undergo extensive background checks by local police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Department of Children and Families, and sign affidavits of good moral character, he said.

“We have had a minor turnover since the incident in 2007,” said Caruso. “Today we have a great team of drivers in place, who provide safe and on-time trips five days a week to our passengers.”

Cabral was placed on unpaid administrative leave following the allegations against him and does not currently work for the company.