Ron Wright, who resigned April 3 as South Daytona’s police chief as a result of the criminal inquiry, had obtained video of a police chase, which was captured by a residential video camera. That video was passed on to Wright’s son, who passed it on to Wright, who passed it on to his daughter, who had previously dated the man suspected of starting the chase, authorities said.
The problem for authorities was that Wright didn’t turn over the video to the State Attorney’s Office, which was prosecuting the suspect, James Nitti.
Wright was investigated for evidence tampering and failing to perform duties required of a sworn officer. Instead of being arrested, Wright entered a deferred prosecution agreement. Wright has agreed to voluntarily surrender his law enforcement certification through the state and pay $5,000 to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for the cost of the investigation.
Wright declined to be interviewed for this story, but his attorney, Michael Politis, said the video that Wright obtained actually had “no evidentiary value” because prosecutors already had obtained the video from someone else.
“I think if it was anything at all, it was, at worst, negligence,” Politis said.
On Oct. 26, 2017, Nitti, 51, showed up at the home of his ex-girlfriend, Katelynd Wright, to repay a debt, according to an investigative summary. Soon after he left, Nitti called his ex-girlfriend and told her that police were chasing him. It was during that chase that Nitti nearly struck two South Daytona police vehicles, authorities said.
Eventually, Nitti was arrested after a K-9 took him down. The pursuit began that afternoon at Sumac Court, a cul-de-sac in South Daytona. A homeowner’s security camera captured the start of the pursuit.
That homeowner sent the video to Ron Wright’s son, who sent it to his father. That was the video that Wright sent to his daughter, Katelynd Wright, at which time he told her that her ex-boyfriend had nearly killed two of his police officers during the chase, according to the investigative summary.
It was during a deposition in February that prosecutors learned that Ron Wright was in possession of the video. An investigator with the State Attorney’s Office contacted Wright, who delivered the video, authorities said.
That was when Wright told the investigator that he “purposely failed” to submit the video “in order to keep his children from becoming involved in the incident,” the summary stated.
Nitti, who was charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, is still awaiting trial. He has remained at the Volusia County Branch Jail since having his bail revoked in March, according to jail records.
Special agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement met with Wright on April 3 to interview him. He told them he wanted to cooperate, but decided to consult with an attorney first. Later that day, Wright resigned as police chief. Gerald Monahan, Port Orange’s former police chief, is serving as interim head of South Daytona’s department.
Wright served more than 29 years with the South Daytona Police Department. He was named acting chief in January 2013 after his predecessor, Bill Hall, retired. In September of that year, Wright was named permanent chief.
Politis said he believed in his client’s innocence and believed strongly that Wright would have been acquitted by a jury had the state brought the case to trial, but even the slightest possibility of a conviction was something Wright wanted to avoid. Additionally, Ron Wright never admitted guilt and could retire with no blemishes on his record and with a full pension.
“We both strongly considered defending his honor and challenging the accusations, but we decided in the interest of closure that this was the path of least resistance,” Politis said.