Sabin Barto’s fight for justice highlights need for accountability in law enforcement
NAPLES, Fla. – March 30, 2023 – On February 19, 2020, Sabin Barto, a military veteran, was approached by Naples police officers, who accused him of arson without proper investigation. Despite Barto’s attempts to explain his innocence, the officers appeared more concerned with making an arrest than seeking the truth.
“They said I looked just like the guy who had an argument with the owner of the marina. So, I told them we should go talk to the owner, but they didn’t like that idea,” Barto recalled.
Subsequently, the officers arrested him based on text messages without even looking at his phone or conducting a thorough investigation. Barto had reported the phone as stolen several months prior. He believes the police officers were determined to pin the arson on him and used the text messages as an excuse to arrest him, even if it meant disregarding the facts.
“None of it made any sense. It still doesn’t make any sense. I had my phone right there and they didn’t even look at it. To make matters worse, detective Jason Collins even put in his report that I was following someone, to which he later redacted but still doesn’t change anything. Collins is also a city cop and I live in the county, yet he kept driving by my house after the arrest. I will say this, the cops in Naples are bad. I had heard plenty of horror stories prior to this, so it’s the only thing that makes sense of any of this. They knew I had reported my phone stolen, yet they arrested me anyway,” Barto said.
But it didn’t stop there. Barto didn’t realize the attorney he hired had been fired from law enforcement prior to becoming an attorney. According to court documents, Officer Collins and State Attorney Siobhan Bonilla had a witness in court who received text messages from someone claiming they were Barto, and they told their witness to tell the judge Barto was committing arson.
“I couldn’t believe it! I never knew anything about boat fires until they came pounding at my door. They were the only people who ever accused me of such a thing. And because they couldn’t pin it on me, they made sure to tell their witness I was committing arson and had her tell that to the judge. And the Judge Provost didn’t even question it. I guess that tells you how things still are in the south. Low and behold, judge sent me to jail and guess what happens? More boats go up in flames while I’m behind bars. That’s the Naples police for ya. That’s Collier County” expressed Barto.
Barto filed a complaint against Officer Collins, as well as his attorney, Elizabeth Humann, who is now being investigated. According to documents, Humann never objected to the arson accusations or more text messages that were sent that Barto was not aware of.
Barto stated, “It was a total setup. Ms. Humann is legally obligated to share all evidence with me. During the hearing, aside from the arson accusation, one witness mentioned being called a lesbian. I looked right over at my attorney, completely blown away that she never told me about it. And the fact that she just stood there without objecting meant that she knew about it, but never told me. She didn’t object to that and she didn’t object to the arson. And prior to practicing law, she was a Naples police officer who was fired for misconduct. Need I say more?”
Additionally, Barto was denied his prescribed medication for nearly five weeks while incarcerated. Inmates have perished in the Collier County jail as a result of being denied their medications, yet it still persists. These events have had a severe impact on Barto’s life, including a legal battle for his parental rights and the theft of his dog during his incarceration. Click here to read more
Barto’s situation emphasizes the importance of unbiased investigation and due process in law enforcement. False accusations can lead to severe consequences, and it is vital that law enforcement officials prioritize the pursuit of truth over the mere desire to make an arrest.
Despite the challenges he has faced, Barto is committed to moving forward with his life and hopes to promote positive change within the jail and prison systems. He has returned to school and is working with attorneys to gather information on clients who have been incarcerated in Collier County.
This incident highlights the critical need for accountability and transparency in law enforcement practices to protect citizens’ rights and prevent the wrongful conviction of innocent individuals.
“When you know you’re innocent, you don’t give up,” Barto said. “The whole thing was a setup from the start. To come up with arson, a felony. And because they couldn’t pin it on me, they went as far as having a witness accuse me of it in court. I guess that’s just what’s to be expected from the police in Naples, Florida. It’s the Collier County system. I’m sure there will be more to come from the police since I’m talking to the media now. Who knows what will be next.”