The Daytona Beach News-Journal
The general counsel for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office resigned Tuesday after The News-Journal asked about a series of “More Than White Noise” videos she had posted on the conservative online platform Rumble.
In some of the videos, Theresa Pontieri, who is white, disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement. In one video, she referred to a Black girl who police in Ohio fatally shot as “thuggy.”
In another video, she said she did not condone but understood why those who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6 were angry that then-Vice President Mike Pence was not supporting former President Donald Trump’s assertion without evidence that the election was stolen from him.
The videos all appear to have been made before Pontieri was hired as general counsel to the Sheriff’s Office. Her last White Noise video was apparently posted in April. In the hours after The News-Journal contacted Pontieri on Monday, most of the videos were removed from Rumble. The News-Journal recorded audio from some of the videos before their removal.
Pontieri started her job as general counsel for the Sheriff’s Office on July 6. The position paid $95,674.78 per year.
In one video podcast in April, Pontieri talked about Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man deputies in North Carolina fatally shot on April 21. Brown died from a bullet to the back of the head.
A district attorney said the shooting was justified because Brown, who deputies were attempting to arrest, “used his vehicle as a deadly weapon,” prompting the deputies to believe it was necessary to use deadly force to protect themselves, according to a USAToday story. Brown’s family said he was driving away from deputies when he was shot in the back.
Pontieri said about Brown: “Imagine that, another Black person gets shot eluding police. Wow, that’s a unique story line, and now everybody is up in arms because they think the police officers should not have shot him. Whatever.”
Pontieri also commented about Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black 16-year-old girl living in a foster home who police shot dead on April 20. Police body camera video showed Bryant appeared to try to swing a knife at another young Black woman.
Pontieri talked about Bryant and Daunte Wright, 20, a Black man who was fatally shot on April 11 in Minnesota by a police officer who yelled Taser but instead drew her pistol and shot him. Former Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in Wright’s death.
“They were both freaking thuggy criminals,” Pontieri said of Bryant and Wright.
She dismissed that Bryant was a 16-year-old girl and she said that Wright had a criminal record.
“These are not good people,” Pontieri said.
Flagler officials: Pontieri’s commentary doesn’t represent sheriff’s values
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Mark Strobridge released a statement late Tuesday afternoon saying that Pontieri had resigned.
“The statements and choice of words in her on-line commentary do not represent or reflect Sheriff Staly’s proven values,” Strobridge wrote. “A private members only podcast, which was made in April 2021 before she was employed with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, was brought to our attention on August 23, 2021, and was not disclosed or found in the hiring process.
“The comments were divisive and controversial resulting in the losing effectiveness as the Agency General Counsel. Because of the tone and what was said creates a strained relationship with the community. Ms. Pontieri has elected to resign from her position and the resignation was accepted effective today.”
Strobridge also attached a copy of Pontieri’s letter of resignation, which was dated Aug. 24 and addressed to Staly.
“Please kindly accept this as my two-week notice of resignation. I have greatly appreciated my time with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and I thank you immensely for the opportunity to serve our community,” the letter stated in part.
As general counsel, Pontieri reported to Staly but worked in support of the entire staff, Strobridge wrote.
Theresa Pontieri: I stopped making the videos ‘a while back’
Pontieri was asked in an interview with The News-Journal on Monday whether her views might cause Black and brown people to question whether they could get fair treatment from the Sheriff’s Office.
“I don’t make decisions on a day-to-day basis with regard to who is arrested,” Pontieri said. “The crime that they are arrested for, that is in no way, shape or form my role at the Sheriff’s Office. So people should not have a fear with regards to whether they get a fair shake.”
In the interview, she said she had stopped doing the videos “a while back” because of the divisiveness in the country.
The last video podcast the News-Journal found was in April. Shortly after Pontieri spoke with The News-Journal on Monday, most of her videos were no longer on Rumble. On Tuesday, none of the “More Than White Noise” videos could be found.
Pontieri said in the interview with The News-Journal that law enforcement were getting unfairly criticized for outcomes caused by people who were breaking the law and then fleeing from police. She said that the media were quick to criticize police instead of defending the victim, such as the woman Bryant was threatening with a knife.
In another video podcast of “More Than White Noise,” Pontieri discussed the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Pontieri said she understood the circumstances behind what happened at the Capitol “just based on the climate of things and how dismissive everybody has been towards the millions of Americans that feel this election was stolen from them.”
Pontieri said she wished that the riot had not happened and wished that there had been no violence. She went on to say: “But when you get (a) live update saying, OK, (then-Vice President) Mike Pence is literally not doing anything. He’s just going to fall right in to what they want him to do, he’s not going to stand up for us, he’s not even going to lend any credence whatsoever or any support for the president and say anything to the effect of I understand how you all feel. I mean, there’s just nothing.
“When you see that, and you hear that that’s what’s happening, you feel hopelessness, and you feel like the only thing that you can do at that point is, is take it one step further. And again, I’m not condoning it and I wish it hadn’t happened. But I have to say I get it, I understand, I am angry. I am really angry and I know that there are a lot of people like me that are angry.”
Pontieri also called President Joe Biden the “APOTUS,” meaning “the alleged president of the United States.”
Theresa Pontieri called some of her comments ‘satire’
In the interview with The News-Journal, Pontieri said some of the comments she made were “satire.” She added she could not say whether Biden received more votes than Trump in the 2020 election.
“I don’t have enough information to say whether or not I think Joe Biden is the actual president of the United States,” Pontieri said. “The election came out the way it came out and he is our president.”
What does she think Pence should have done? Pontieri said she didn’t have an opinion on that, but added that many people were frustrated that he didn’t do anything. She repeated in the interview that she did not condone the violence on Jan. 6.
Pontieri’s comments on her videos concerned Joe Matthews, who is president of the African American Cultural Society in Palm Coast.
“People in positions like that shouldn’t express publicly their personal feelings,” said Matthews. “You are supposed to be unbiased in all ways. And to express your bias to the public, it’s really where people develop a mistrust because they now see that you favor one against the other.”
Matthews blasted Pontieri’s views on the Jan. 6 riot.
“That is so asinine and so ridiculous for her to think that way,” Matthews said. “These people (the rioters) came with the express purpose of overthrowing the government, because of the lie that then- President Trump was perpetrating.”
On Wednesday, told Pontieri had resigned, Matthews said that was the right thing to happen.
“Well, I think that based on the things that she spewed and her personal views being public, it’s a good thing that she’s gone,” he said.
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