BRADENTON -- The unavailability of a key prosecution witness has delayed the trial in the theft case against former Bradenton deputy police chief Warren Merriman until February.
Merriman, 43, is charged with three counts of misdemeanor petit theft. Prosecutors say he submitted hours not completed during off-duty details, and asked a subordinate to help him with a home project while on duty.
Allegations against the 17-year Bradenton police veteran became public Sept. 8, 2014, when the city placed him on paid administrative leave. Merriman has since maintained his innocence.
In January, he was formally terminated from his position with the Bradenton Police Department.
On Monday afternoon, Senior Circuit Court Judge Lee Haworth granted the state's request to continue the case. Merriman is now scheduled to stand trial beginning Feb. 8.
The defense had been ready to move forward to trial, scheduled for the two-week trial period beginning Dec. 7.
"We were disappointed; we were really looking forward to getting this case tried," defense attorney Brett McIntosh said.
The motion to continue had been filed by the State Attorney's Office on Nov. 24, after learning that a key witness would he having unforeseen surgery on Monday.
"The Lieutenant William Knight is a material and crucial witness in this case," wrote Assistant State Attorney Heather Doyle in the motion. "Because of this surgery, Lieutenant Knight will not be able to testify during the currently scheduled trial period."
Haworth also heard arguments on the defense's amended motion to sever the three counts filed against Merriman, but he reserved his ruling. The decision will be filed in writng.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.