St Augustine Beach FL March 15 2018 The man arrested for beating a security guard with an assault rifle at the gated Anastasia Island community where his parents lived in March 2017 received probation Wednesday after pleading to lesser charges.
Jake Andrew Dewerth pleaded no contest during a morning session at the St. Johns County courthouse to charges of burglary of an unoccupied structure and felony battery.
Per the terms of a plea agreement in the case, Circuit Judge Howard Maltz withheld adjudication on the charges and sentenced Dewerth, 20, to 10 years of probation (consecutive 5-year terms for each count) with special conditions.
Those conditions, listed in court by Dewerth’s attorney, Patrick Canan, include his attendance at Aspiro, which was described as an “outdoor behavioral health program.” He will also not be allowed to have contact with the victim, will not be allowed to visit the Sea Colony neighborhood where the incident occurred, and will not be allowed to ingest drugs or alcohol or possess any firearms. He is required to pay restitution to his victim — which court documents show have already been paid — and will be required to complete any other recommended mental health treatment.
St. Augustine Beach Police officers arrested Dewerth the night of March 5, 2017 after they, along with St. Johns County sheriff’s deputies responded to the gates of the Sea Colony neighborhood and found the guard there badly injured from an apparent beating.
Police reports of the incident said the guard was taken to Flagler Hospital and was later determined to have suffered a dislocated jaw, broken nose and a fractured cheekbone.
Dewerth, who was 19 at the time, was taken into custody not far from the neighborhood’s guard shack where he was found walking barefoot, wearing only red shorts and a gray tank top with blood on them.
According to one of the arrest reports in the case, surveillance video recovered from the area, and later released to the media, showed Dewerth approaching the guard shack with a rifle.
According to the report, the video later “displays [the guard] on the ground and Dewerth with a rifle in his hands.”
“It appears as though [the guard] had already been injured inside the office and was already showing fatigue,” the report says. “Dewerth then strikes [the guard] with the butt of his rifle repeatedly in the face and the back of his head.”
“Dewerth then points the rifle at [the guard’s] head and it appears like he could fire the gun at any moment,” it continues.
The guard told officers the night of the incident that he didn’t know what had precipitated the beating and said that the man who attacked him was talking about the governor and at one point asked him “What did you tell the governor?”
The gun, parts of which were found near the guard shack and outside of Dewerth’s parents’ home, was later determined to be an AK-47. His parents, who had also called 911 the night of the incident to report that their son was acting strange, told authorities during that call that he had taken the gun with him when he left their house.
Dewerth was originally facing charges of burglary with an assault or battery, aggravated battery on a security officer and two counts of possession of similitude of drivers license.
The 7th Circuit State Attorney’s Office did not file a single count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for which Dewerth had also been arrested, and later dropped the two drivers license charges.
The charges to which he pleaded no contest were lesser included offenses of the burglary and aggravated battery charges.
Assistant State Attorney Rebecca Emert, who only recently took over the case, said the victim is “in absolute agreement with the disposition” which was arrived at after “extensive review of discovery” by the case’s previous prosecutor and division chief Chris Ferebee as well as “numerous psychological evaluations” by defense and state doctors.
“You are getting a big break here … ” Maltz told Dewerth after handing down the sentence. “Take advantage of it and don’t come back here. Hopefully we don’t see you back here on violation of probation.”
The guard sued Dewerth and his father, Henry Dewerth, in civil court seeking damages for, among other things, medical expenses and “loss of wages in the past and/or loss of earning capacity in the future.” The complaint alleges, in part, that Dewerth had inflicted emotional distress and and that the father had “negligently entrusted” the gun to his son “due to mental health issues and other behaviors that made it foreseeable” that the son would use the gun “for nefarious purposes.”
The father, the complaint goes on, “owed a duty to those who might be injured” by his son “to exercise reasonable control over the firearm so as to ensure that he did not create an unreasonable foreseeable zone of risk of bodily harm to others.”
Court records show that case was settled in mediation on Feb. 21.