Man Called “Douchebag” by Santa Rosa Deputy during Controversial Arrest

Posted on March 27, 2023 by Romi White

Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office has once again attracted negative national attention from Civil Rights Auditor Rights Crispy, following a January 10 traffic stop in Milton.

It’s the third time since January 2022 that Rights Crispy has spotlighted the agency on his YouTube channel. So far the video he shared last week of the January 10 arrest has received more than 180,000 views.

Bodycam footage from that incident shows SRSO Deputy Phillip Smith told Milton resident Michael Holben he was “being a douchebag” for not providing his identification a second time during the traffic stop.

Holben, who was a passenger in a vehicle, had already provided his identification to Smith’s partner, Deputy Forrest Neff, who failed to find any criminal record for Holben using his first and last name.

In the bodycam footage, Holben is heard saying they didn’t find any criminal records because he has never been in trouble with the law.

Smith went on to say he was seeking the identification a second time so that Holben’s middle name could also be utilized to conduct a more extensive search.

The traffic stop on Park Avenue started because of an expired tag but escalated after Neff told Smith he had detected the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.

However, a Florida Appellate Judge has stated “the sight or smell of a substance presumed to be marijuana can no longer provide probable cause to search a vehicle or its occupants,” following the passage of the federal 2018 Farm Bill, which authorized the production of hemp and removed it from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s schedule of Controlled Substances. Subsequently, that was codified in Florida State Statutes on July 1, 2019.

Despite the change in federal and state laws, the SRSO deputies directed all occupants of the vehicle to exit so a search could be  conducted. Per Rights Crispy, that violated protections against illegal search provided to Americans under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and under Article 12 of Florida’s Constitution.

In the arrest report, Smith stated he asked Holben to turn around and face the truck so he could “pat him down” for weapons. Per Smith’s account, “Holben got very agitated and told me that I was not allowed to touch him.” However, bodycam footage contradicts Smith’s assertions.

Footage reveals Holben complied, lifting both hands into the air and stating in a calm voice, “I don’t approve of this. I’ve broken no crimes. I’m a passenger in a vehicle.” Holben went on to say, “I’d appreciate if you don’t put your hands on me. Go ahead, but I appreciate if you’d not.” At no point during the bodycam footage was Holben heard saying Smith was not allowed to touch him.

Shortly thereafter Smith and Neff discussed running Holben’s identification a second time, utilizing his middle name. When Holben refused, Smith directed him to turn around and place his hands behind his back. Holben complied, and Smith placed a handcuff on one wrist.

“What did I do,” Holben asked. “Because you’re refusing to identify yourself,” Smith stated.

Holben then tried to pull out his identification out of his phone while begging his family to “Please record this.” At that point, Smith forced Holben to the ground.

“That was uncalled for, sir,” Holben said. Smith replied, “You’re right. It was.”

Smith then directed Holden to stand up while pulling him upright from behind before placing Holden’s upper body face down across the front of his partner’s patrol car. Smith then started emptying Holden’s pockets, asking for the identification. Holden said the ID was located on his phone which Smith had thrown.

The deputies were unable to find any criminal records during the second search.

Smith then walks to the front of the patrol car and starts arguing with Holden over what had transpired stating, “Just stand there and shut up. That’s the best thing for you to do.”

Shortly thereafter the bodycam footage is repeatedly muted as the two officers talk before Smith informs Holben he was being arrested for obstructing.

“What did I obstruct,” Holben asked. “I asked you for your identification,” Smith replied. “You refused to give me your identification.”

Subsequently, Holden was booked into Santa Rosa County Jail at 3:20 p.m. and charged with a first-degree misdemeanor count of obstructing without violence. He was released at 10:52 p.m. after posting a $1,000 bond.

“I had already provided identification and then was arrested for not providing it. Just makes no sense to me,” Holben told South Santa Rosa News.

Holben’s case is scheduled for an April 14 docket day in front of First Judicial Circuit Judge Tony Giraud.