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Holderness charged with two felony counts after confrontation with Cosentino

By Rachel Brown Hackney
SarasotaNewsLeader.com

Siesta property owner Michael Holderness has been charged with one felony count of Robbery by Sudden Snatching without a Firearm or Weapon, plus one felony count of Tampering with or Fabricating Physical Evidence after a Dec. 31, 2018 incident involving Mike Cosentino, 54.

Holderness was released on a total of $15,000 bond after his Jan. 3 arrest, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division records show. His arraignment is set for Feb. 8.

Holderness is one of three owners of property on a 373-foot-long segment of North Beach Road that the County Commission voted 4-1 to vacate in May 2016. Cosentino has been waging a legal battle against the county to return that road segment to public ownership and to prevent any future vacations of county roads along or near the water. He and supporters won passage in November 2018 of two County Charter amendments to effectuate his goals. However, the county has been party to a Circuit Court complaint seeking to invalidate the amendments. The county has argued that the amendments contravene authority the Florida Constitution gives local governments.

The Sheriff’s Office report on the Cosentino/Holderness incident notes that it occurred at 10:59 a.m. on Dec. 31. Cosentino called the Sheriff’s Office to file a report, alleging that Holderness had stolen Cosentino’s cell phone.

In his statement to officers, Cosentino explained that he owns property at 10 Beach Road, just west of the intersection of Avenida Messina and Beach Road. Because of recent storms, Cosentino continued in the report, sand had washed up on the vacated road segment. He added that he had obtained a permit from the county to bring in a skid loader and remove the sand.

Howard Berna, manager of the county’s Environmental Permitting Division, confirmed that the county had issued the permit to Cosentino.

Berna wrote in a Jan. 8 email, “Mr. Cosentino received a Right-of-Way use permit to remove sand that was recently deposited on the pavement by winter storm fronts. No construction is involved and the work was limited to moving sand off the pavement at a specific location.”

Confrontation and the aftermath

The Sheriff’s Report noted that while Cosentino was in the middle of his sand-clearing project, Holderness drove up in a truck. Cosentino said Holderness began yelling at him and told Cosentino to get off his property.

However, the Sheriff’s Office report said that a search of records showed “Holderness does not own any property in the location [where] Cosentino was doing the work.”

The report continued, “The investigation revealed Holderness began to back up his truck into the area/driveway [where] Cosentino was standing. At that point, Cosentino retrieved his iPhone and began recording a video, fearing he may be hit by the truck.”

Holderness jumped out of the truck, walked up to Cosentino — who was about 8 to 10 feet away, the report said — and snatched the iPhone out of Cosentino’s hand. “Cosentino followed Holderness back to his driver door demanding his cell phone back.”

That occurred at 47 Beach Road, according to the arrest report.

Then, the report said, “Cosentino grabbed the steering wheel to prevent Holderness from leaving with his property, at which time Holderness struck Cosentino’s hand,” which resulted in Cosentino letting go of the steering wheel. Holderness proceeded to leave the scene, the report said.

Both men called law enforcement officers, the report noted. Sgt. Paul Cernansky, the new leader of the Siesta substation, drove over to meet Holderness, “who was in possession of Cosentino’s phone,” the report added.

After the phone was returned to Cosentino, the report continued, Cosentino gave his written consent for officers to conduct a search for the video Cosentino said he had made. “The video was located in the iPhone deleted folder. The video showed the events happening as Cosentino described,” the report pointed out.

“Audio recorded statements were taken of both Cosentino and Holderness,” the report continued. “The statement provided by Holderness showed he was being deceptive and fabricated the story, since his chain of events was
clearly opposite as to what occurred on the video.”

The report also noted that a witness corroborated the events as Cosentino had described them.

Cosentino called the Dec. 31, 2018 incident “Unbelievable” in a statement to SNL.

The Sheriff’s Office arrest warrant said, “No contact [with] victim” on a line provided for other conditions of release.

Holderness formally was arrested just before 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 3.

A Jan. 4 document filed in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court docket for the Holderness/Cosentino case says Holderness declined to apply for the services of a public defender.