Incident occurs while Cosentino is clearing sand from North Beach Road
Siesta property owner and manager Michael Holderness, 48, 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, The Sarasota News Leader has learned.
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. As of this week, no hearing has been scheduled on the issues.
Cosentino also is appealing a Circuit Court judge’s dismissal of his June 2016 complaint against Sarasota County over the North Beach Road vacation. The Second District Court of Appeal agreed last year to hear the appeal; Cosentino’s initial brief in the case is due Jan. 21, court records say.
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.
The News Leader confirmed this week with Howard Berna, manager of the county’s Environmental Permitting Division, 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.”
Cosentino called the Dec. 31, 2018 incident “Unbelievable” in a statement to the News Leader.
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.
Holderness formally was arrested just before 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 3 at the house he owns at 95 Columbus Blvd., the report noted.
Sarasota County Property Appraiser records show Holderness bought the house from Holderness Enterprises LLC on March 27, 2017, paying $1.6 million for it. Mike Holderness is the registered agent for the limited liability company, according to Florida Division of Corporations records.
Holderness also owns the Columbus Boulevard house at the intersection of North Beach Road. For many years, that house was the residence of the late, much beloved Capt. Ralph Styles, a World War II veteran who was known widely for his flag-raising and lowering ceremonies at dawn and dusk.
The latest filing in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court file for the Holderness/Cosentino case, dated Jan. 4, says Holderness declined to apply for the services of a public defender.
The arraignment order in that court file also orders Holderness not to have “any direct or indirect contact … with any victim in this case.” That appears to be standard language, based on the document.
Nonetheless, the Sheriff’s Office arrest warrant added, “No contact [with] victim” on a line provided for other conditions of release.