A hearing was scheduled to take place today in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to determine whether Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz is truly indigent or if the $800,000 inheritance that he will receive at age 22 can force him to seek a private attorney instead of using a public defender on the taxpayer's dime. It was the public defender who brought this matter to the attention of the judge in the case, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, who ordered an investigation into the matter of the trust left for Nikolas Cruz by his adopted mother, Lynda Cruz.
The Nikolas Cruz Inheritance Hearing Was Abruptly Canceled Today
Before the hearing could take place today, it was abruptly canceled with a simple note on the courtroom door, says Local10.
"[Nikolas] Cruz petition for administration canceled at attorney's request."
It is unclear which attorney canceled the matter and if the hearing to determine whether or not Nikolas Cruz can continue to use a public defender will be rescheduled. Just last week, the Broward County Public Defender assigned to the Nikolas Cruz Parkland case asked the judge to determine whether Nikolas Cruz qualifies for free legal services.
Prior to that, the Broward County Court Clerk determined Nikolas Cruz was indigent, but sources say that Cruz had not mentioned the inheritance left to him in a trust. Documents filed yesterday with the court state that Nikolas Cruz will not waive his interest as a beneficiary to his mother Lynda Cruz's estate.
See All Documents Related To The Nikolas Cruz Trust And Inheritance
Yesterday, Nikolas Cruz waived his right to be the administrator of his mother's (Lynda Cruz) estate and instead appointed family friend Rocxanne Deschamps, who is currently serving as the guardian of his younger brother, Zachary Cruz.
However, the court has also discovered recently that Nikolas Cruz has already attempted to access his $800,000 inheritance even before the Parkland, Florida, shooting, reports the New York Post. Nikolas Cruz signed a retainer agreement with lawyer Audra Simovitch two weeks after the death of his mother, Lynda Cruz, from pneumonia. Nikolas Cruz hired a lawyer to attempt to get his trust ahead of his 22nd birthday based on the orders of Broward County Probate Division Judge Charles Greene.
Since the shooting on Valentine's Day, Judge Greene has granted Audra Simovitch permission to meet with Nikolas Cruz and has told the public defender's office not to interfere with Audra Simovitch or her meetings with Nikolas Cruz. It is unclear if Cruz still wants to access his inheritance before his 22nd birthday.
The law states that the money Nikolas Cruz is about to inherit puts his access to a public defender at risk.
"Under Florida law, Cruz wouldn't be entitled to a free defense lawyer if he has or expects to have more than $2,500 in assets other than a home and a vehicle."
Audra Simovitch is planning to meet with Cruz again soon, and at this time, the public defender's office has no comment and will not comment on rescheduling the hearing canceled today.
A Judge Still Needs To Determine If Nikolas Cruz Can Have Access To A Public Defender Despite His Trust
Nikolas Cruz had made it known to James and Kimberly Snead, who he was living with at the time of the shooting, that he was waiting for his money, which would leave him comfortable. Jim Lewis, a lawyer for the Sneads, said they thought Cruz would be solvent soon.
"The kid was not hurting for money at any point. Everyone knows about it. The question is if it's available now."
But even if Nikolas Cruz can't access his money now, he can be forced to reimburse the county later, according to Judge Scott Silverman.
"The public is still protected if he comes into money at some later time. The Public Defenders would be reimbursed the cost of its services."