Book in photo for Shawn Fitzgerald

Shawn Fitzgerald, Former Lakeland High School Teacher, Soccer Coach and Youth Minister, Sentenced to 35 Years in Prison for Possession of Child Pornography.

Fitzgerald was arrested by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in November 2020. The investigation revealed that Fitzgerald possessed more than 700 pictures and videos of children, as young as infants, being sexually abused by adults or sexually exploited. The child pornography was located on Fitzgerald’s cell phone in multiple encrypted apps; including one app that was disguised as a calculator. Law enforcement also located a selfie of Fitzgerald, with his genitals exposed, while standing in his classroom. A forensic analysis of his cell phone revealed that Fitzgerald routinely viewed child pornography while going about his daily life, including while teaching, ministering to the youth, coaching and attending field trips.

State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Monica Smith and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd and his Computer Crimes Unit in ensuring that this sex offender was sentenced to a long-term prison sentence and protecting the youth of our community.


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SAO Collage from Youth Mock Trial

State Attorney’s Office Youth Mock Trial 2023

The State Attorney’s Office recently hosted its Youth Mock Trial Program. Nine High School students thinking about pursuing careers as attorneys or law enforcement attended our week-long program to learn more about our court system and try some mock cases in a courtroom. In addition to being mentored by a handful of our prosecutors throughout the week, the students spoke to Judge Yancey about a judge’s role in a courtroom, they went on a tour of the holding cells and tunnel with a PCSO Lt. Wiegert, and collected and processed evidence at a mock crime scene put on by Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Pautz.
All of their training led up to a mock trial at the end of the week. Students were given case facts and evidence and formulated their own openings and closings, along with witness examinations. Not only was the week an excellent opportunity for the students to get a first-hand look at how our office functions, it helped a few students confirm that a career as a prosecutor was exactly what they wanted to do with their lives.
We are delighted to have such a positive outcome and look forward to hosting another successful program next year.
Ronald Strouse

Lake Wales Man Convicted for 2nd Degree Murder in Wife’s 2019 Death

On June 11th, 2019, Ronald Strouse, 77, called 911 and told the operator a “lady” was fighting with him. The “lady” turned out to be Strouse’s 77 year old wife of almost 50 years of marriage.  Later in the call, the defendant told the 911 operator he and his wife were physically fighting and he didn’t think she was with us any longer. The day before the murder, the victim confronted the defendant and told him she was leaving him. The next day, while the victim was lying on the couch, the defendant pulled her off and began aggressively battering her, while he sat on top of her and strangled her until she stopped moving. On June 27th, 2023 Strouse was convicted by a Polk County Jury of 2nd Degree Murder. He will be sentenced later this year and could receive Life in prison. State Attorney Brian Haas thanks Assistant State Attorney Mikaela Perry and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for their work on this case.

Assistant State Attorney Mikaela Perry

Assistant State Attorney Mikaela Perry


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State Attorney’s Office Annual Year’s of Service and Law Enforcement Recognition Ceremony

The State Attorney’s Office held its Annual Years of Service and Law Enforcement Awards Ceremony recently, several officers were recognized for their exemplary work on a particular case and those who went above and beyond their routine job duties in efforts to assist our office.


                                                     State Attorney Brian Haas and Polk County Sheriff's Sergeant Caleb Swenson

Sergeant Caleb Swenson -Polk County Sheriff’s Office


State Attorney Brian Haas and Special Agent Nathan Coogan

Special Agent Nathan Coogan- Florida Department of Law Enforcement


State Attorney Brian Haas and Officer Sean Bruner

Officer Sean Bruner- Haines City Police Department



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