BLM Criticisms Lead to Resignation of General Counsel

Photo by James Eades on Unsplash

The general counsel of the Flagler County Sheriff's Office in Florida resigned August 24th. The Daytona Beach News-Journal sparked the resignation when it asked questions about a video series. The former general counsel, Theresa Pontieri, is white. She criticized the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in several online videos.

Rumble is the social media video platform that published Pontieri’s videos. After Pontieri resigned, Rumble has removed the videos. Pontieri started working at the Flagler County Sheriff's Office on July 6th, per the Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff, Mark Strobridge. Less than two months passed before Pontieri resigned.

Sheriff’s Office Makes Statement About BLM Videos

Shortly after Pontieri’s resignation, the Sheriff’s Office released a statement. It included the position of the Sheriff’s Office:

“The statements and choice of words in her online commentary do not represent or reflect Sheriff Staly’s proven values," Strobridge said in an emailed statement. He continued:

BLM Flagler County

A private, members only podcast, which was made in April 2021 before she was employed with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, was brought to our attention on August 23, 2021, and was not disclosed or found in the hiring process. The comments were divisive and controversial, resulting in the losing effectiveness as the Agency General Counsel. Because the tone and what was said creates a strained relationship with the community, Ms. Pontieri has elected to resign from her position and the resignation was accepted effective today.

Pontieri Resignation

Pontieri's did not mention the BLM videos in her resignation letter to Sheriff Rick Staly. Pontieri said:

I have greatly appreciated my time with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office and I thank you immensely for the opportunity to serve our community. I want nothing but the very best for the agency and for Flagler County, and I pray for the safety and success of all staff as you continue to grow the Sheriff's Office and protect our citizens.

Pontieri called her videos "More Than White Noise." The platform on which she posted them, Rumble, is known to be “conservative.” The videos clearly disparaged the BLM movement. In response to a report of a police killing of a Black girl in Ohio, Pontieri described the girl as "thuggy."

In anothe of her videos, Pontieri said that she did not condone the anger of the people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th were angry. But she said that she did understand why they were angry. Pontieri noted that the rioters were especially angry when Vice President Mike Pence refused to support former President Donald Trump's assertions. Trump claimed, despite an absence of evidence, that the election was stolen from him.

In another video back in April, Pontieri discussed the killing of Andrew Brown Jr. Brown was a Black man. Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed him on April 21st. Brown’s cause of death was a bullet to the back of the head. The BLM has protested about the killing.

District Attorney Said Killing Justified

According to the local Ohio district attorney, the deputies haas a legal justification for shooting Brown. The deputies were trying to arrest Brown when he allegedly "used his vehicle as a deadly weapon." The deputies claimed that they needed to protect themselves by using deadly force, according to a USAToday story. But according to Brown’s family, the deputies shot Brown in the back while Brown was driving away from them.

However, Pontieri said about Brown: "Imagine that, another Black person gets shot eluding police. Wow, that's a unique story line, and now everybody is up in arms because they think the police officers should not have shot him. Whatever.”

Pontieri Defends Her Actions

However, Pontieri later attempted to defend her BLM criticisms. She sent a statement to the Palm Coast Observer and the News-Journal that said:

I previously had a podcast in which I discussed current events and politics—with a large focus being on my advocacy against anti-police rhetoric in this country. The News-Journal's article cherry-picked content from a couple of my videos and failed to provide the point I was trying to make, which is that I’m tired of seeing victims of crime and the police that protect us being cast aside, while people perpetrating crimes are being uplifted in order to further a political narrative. I’m further agitated that this is done at the expense of addressing the true root causes of crime in minority communities.

She went on to say:

My forced resignation is nothing less than an act of complicity with the very atrocity I was trying to advocate against. Contesting false rhetoric that has done nothing but tear our country apart is not something that someone in America should be punished for. But, hey, I guess this is all part of the “new normal.”

BLM Videos Made Prior to Tenure as GC

Pontieri made the videos before the Sheriff’s Office hired her to become general counsel. She posted her last “White Noise” video in April. In the hours after The News-Journal contacted Pontieri, Rumble removed most of the BLM videos. The News-Journal recorded audio from some of the videos before their removal.