James Robertson gave information to prosecutors in 2003 regarding two then-unsolved 1998 homicides in downtown Tampa. He cooperated in an investigation in return for a grant of immunity, something that the government denies. Robertson admitted having witnessed the killing of two homeless men and assisted in disposing of evidence. He identified three other men who were involved. All four men were ultimately charged with the murders. Two of Robertson’s co-defendants later agreed to cooperate with investigators and a case was then built against Robertson, despite the fact that he was the one who allowed the cases to be solved in the first place.
As reported in the Tampa Tribune and the St. Petersburg Times, defense attorney Bjorn Brunvand asked the federal court in Tampa to dismiss the indictment against Robertson or to, at least, prevent the prosecution from using his own words against him at trial. The argument was essentially that the charges would never have been filed without the initial reports of Robertson, made to prosecutors – with the assistance of previous defense counsel – under a promise of immunity. Alternately, if there was, in fact, no immunity granted as he believed and had been counseled, then Robertson’s statements were involuntary and he is protected from their use at trial by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. The court denied both motions.
The two cooperating co-defendants have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. According to Bruvand, they are reportedly part of the witness protection program. The trial of Robertson and the remaining co-defendant began in Tampa on October 3, 2011. Robertson faces a life sentence if convicted.