With “vengeance” tattooed on him twice, a convicted killer was acquitted at his second trial Wednesday on an extortion charge connected to a threatening letter sent about the sister of his victim, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.
“I’m nervous,” said Debbie Pitts. “I’m sad, extremely disappointed.”
Russell Calamia pleaded no contest to the 1986 execution-style killing of Gary Smith, a reserve Brevard County Sheriff’s deputy. Calamia received 20 years in prison and 20 years of probation. He served about half of the prison sentence and was released in 1997.
Calamia was found guilty of violating his probation in 2007 when his supervisor learned he had left his home in Sarasota to go to Pasco County, north of Tampa.
Upon his violation of probation conviction, he was ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device, which “agitated Calamia because it caused him problems at work and with his social activities,” according to a court document.
In February 2010, he sent a letter to his attorney, James Kontos. In the eight-page, single-spaced letter, he complained about the GPS monitor. He said the monitor was hurting his chances of entering the medical field.
“Every day this GPS remains on me it ratchets up the hate, rage and anger that I feel toward Debby Pitts and this whole corrupt and prejudicial system,” he wrote, later adding “The hatred I feel will absolutely explode and the results will be tragic.”
He outlined plea options he wanted to present to Assistant State Attorney Wayne Holmes for different sentences – including jail and prison time – in exchange for removing the monitor.
“Our argument being if you continue with this ridiculous GPS monitoring for the next six years I will have no professional licenses, no decent employment and all that will be left is an animal so filled with hate, rage and anger toward this system that all I will have left in my life is vengeance,” he wrote.
Kontos alerted the State Attorney’s Office of the letter. The state brought a violation of probation action against Calamia and got a court order and obtained the contents of the letter. Calamia appealed that charge, but the higher court affirmed it.
The state then charged Calamia with extortion, went to trial, and a jury convicted him in March 2012, later sentencing him to 30 years in prison.
Calamia also appealed that conviction, and the higher court ordered a new trial. The court interpreted the law to mean that extortion hinges on the author’s intent that the message reaches the coerced person. The court found that the jury wasn’t properly instructed about the crime of extortion.
So Calamia went to trial Monday at the Titusville courthouse. He was acquitted Wednesday afternoon.
Pitts said the defense argued about definitions of the words “intent” and “malice.”
“Apparently the defense put enough question in the jury’s mind that if there was a reasonable doubt, they had to find him not guilty,” she said.
She said a probation officer came to her house Wednesday to explain that Calamia would be staying at a hotel in Cocoa until he finds a way home. He’ll have to wear a GPS ankle monitor for 66 days, but after that, he’ll be unsupervised.
Her brother has been dead longer than he had been alive, and Pitts has been through a decades-long process.
“This was my brother, my only sibling. I would do it all over again. I’ve been involved in every hearing, every motion.”
She’s concerned about Calamia walking free — in his letter, he alluded to having “the capacity, skills and training” to carry out threats. He used to be an Indialantic police officer and a professor of criminal justice at Brevard Community College in Cocoa. That’s how he met his victim — Pitts said her brother was a student and saw Calamia as his mentor.
She refuses to move away in fear of Calamia.
“This is my hometown, I’ve lived here almost my entire life,” she said, adding “He doesn’t have the right to take my life away from me.”