A conversation with State Attorney Bill Gladson

The elected state attorney for the 5th Judicial Circuit, Bill Gladson, has been on the job for three years and hopes to continue serving the circuit, which covers Marion, Lake, Citrus, Hernando and Sumter counties.

Gladson was elected as state attorney after his former boss, Brad King, decided not to seek re-election. King became a reserve police officer and in September, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to serve as a circuit judge.

Aside from a three-year stint as a private attorney, the 52-year-old Gladson has spent more than 20 years as a prosecutor for the State Attorney’s Office.

A reporter posed several questions to Gladson. Here are his responses:

Since you have been in office, what is it like? What is a typical day for you?

We have a very large circuit, with five counties and approximately 1.3 million people. There are 18 police departments and five sheriffs, so it never slows down. I spend a great deal of time meeting with detectives about cases and working with local, state, and federal agencies on criminal investigations. I also have a great deal of interaction with local officials, including city and county commissioners, mayors and community leaders.

State Attorney Bill Gladson

How do you juggle five separate offices in five counties?

I spend time in different counties each week. This past year I drove 16,000 miles from office to office, meeting with prosecutors and investigators about cases. There are no issues that are too small, and I do my best to be available to anyone who needs help. Over the last 25 years, I have developed long standing relationships with the law enforcement agencies, which means if there are issues that need to be addressed, I will hear about them quickly.

What are the differences between you and your former boss?

We share the same philosophy when it comes to prosecution. Over the years, this office has been extremely successful. I think the most notable change is that I have tried to make sure that, as an office, we are more proactive about sharing those successes with the community. The criminal justice system is something everyone has an opinion about but very few truly understand. I think educating the public about what we do and why we do it makes us a stronger community.

Former State Attorney Brad King, now a circuit judge.

We’ve had some big cases since you assumed office, are you involved in those cases?

This office has prosecuted more than its fair share of notorious criminals, so that is nothing new. I make it a point to be involved in all of the major cases, particularly the homicides and crimes involving children. I personally make the decision on whether to seek the death penalty on each eligible case, which requires me to be fully informed of the facts as well as the wishes of the victims’ families. As the state attorney, I am solely responsible for approving wiretap authorizations that target the drug organizations that affect our community.

If not, do you get updates on those cases?

I get regular updates on all of the major cases, and I speak with the chief assistant and the homicide chief every day.

Question:What happens with the evidence after a big trial?

Can you give me a few examples of those big cases?

We recently indicted Jeffrey Crum for the decades-old kidnapping, rape and murder of 12-year-old Jennifer Odom from her bus stop in Pasco County. The case had remained cold for the last 30 years until Hernando detectives got a recent break.

Last year we convicted Markeith Lloyd for the killing of Orlando Lieutenant Debra Clayton. As of this Wednesday, the Florida Supreme Court affirmed his conviction, and he now sits on death row.

In April of this year, an Ocala judge sentenced Michael Jones to death for the murders of his wife and four children, whose ages ranged from 11 months to 9 years old.

Cases like these can take a toll on prosecutors, but our assistant state attorneys get up every day ready to fight for what is right. I am proud to work with each and every employee in this office. Their dedication to our mission of public safety and to improve the lives of those that live in our community is unwavering.

Contact Austin L. Miller at austin.miller@starbanner.com

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