A Virginia-based company founded by a gay businessman last week arranged for the release from jail of the brother of the Parkland, Fla., shooting suspect who had been arrested in March for trespassing on the grounds of the school in which his brother allegedly killed 17 people.
Nexus Services, Inc., which is located in Verona, Va., says it has arranged for Zachary Cruz, 18, to move from Florida to nearby Staunton, Va., where the company has offered him free housing, a job, and a “new life.”
The company specializes in arranging for the release of detained immigrants and others through bail secured by requiring them to pay for and wear ankle bracelets with a GPS tracking device while they await court appearances.
The company’s founder and CEO, gay rights advocate Mike Donovan, has said Nexus intervened in Zachary Cruz’s case after it determined that authorities in Broward County, Fla., had treated him unfairly by persuading a judge to set bond at $500,000 for a simple trespassing offense that normally is just $25.
Zachary Cruz’s brother, Nicholas Cruz, 19, has been charged with multiple counts of murder for the Feb. 14 shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 students and faculty members lost their lives.
An arrest report for Zachary Cruz says he told Broward County sheriff’s deputies he skateboarded through the school’s grounds in March because he wanted to “reflect on the school shooting and soak it in.” CNN has reported that Zachary Cruz entered the school grounds after having been warned by school officials to stay off the school property.
CNN reports that on March 29 Zachary Cruz pleaded no contest to the trespassing charge and was sentenced to six months’ probation. Among the terms of the probation was that he would wear a GPS monitor and stay at least one mile away from Stoneman Douglas School. The release terms also prohibit him from contacting his brother Nicholas and any of the Parkland shooting victims or survivors, including those who were his friends, and that he not enter the grounds of any other school.
His situation became more complicated on May 1, according to CNN, when he was arrested again in Palm Beach County for allegedly driving an SUV without a driver’s license and for being too close another school, both of which violated the terms of his probation.
Two days later a judge agreed to release him on condition that should he drive without a license again he could be subjected to a jail term of two months.
With that as a backdrop, attorneys for Nexus Services accompanied Zachary Cruz to court in Broward County on May 11 where he asked a judge to allow him to move to Virginia and transfer his probation there.
Judge Melinda Brown told him his planned move to Staunton, Va., “seems to be a wonderful opportunity,” according to a report by the Washington Post. “I’m not going to stop you. I’m going to send you to Virginia,” the Post quoted Brown as saying.
CNN reports that outside the courthouse Zachary Cruz told the TV news network that he plans to dedicate himself to ending bullying and that he believes bullying played a role in his brother’s actions.
“Because my brother didn’t really fit in with a lot of people and I saw the effects of that, like, first hand,” CNN quoted him as saying outside an animal boarding house in Green Acres, Fla., on May 13.
“I felt like I was bullying him a little bit at times, like I felt like I was a little too hard on him at times,” CNN quoted him as saying in discussing his childhood with his brother. “He was a very, like, fragile person, so…my mom was always there for him,” he told CNN.
The two brothers’ mother, Lynda Cruz, died last November, leaving Zachary Cruz with essentially no stable home environment. He and his brother had been staying at a foster home at the time of the school shooting.
Nexus Services CEO Mike Donovan had taken Zachary to the animal shelter so he could pick up his brother’s two dogs and bring them with him to Virginia.
His move to Virginia comes after Nexus Services announced it was paying for legal costs of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Zachary Cruz against Broward County law enforcement officials for their alleged mistreatment of him while he was in jail.
When asked by CNN what he hoped to do in his new home in Staunton, he said, “Finish high school, work on this bullying thing that I want to do, and just live my life.”
Joseph Papa, communications director for Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBT rights organization, said Nexus Services served as the lead sponsor of the group’s annual fundraising dinner in Richmond last year. Papa said Donovan has been a supporter of LGBT rights causes in Virginia.
Andre Johnson, a spokesperson for the company, said Donovan and the company and its various subsidiaries have supported human rights causes throughout the country.
The Washington Post has reported that the company’s system for arranging bail for detained immigrants though the GPS ankle bracelets has come under criticism by some immigration advocacy groups, who say Nexus Services overcharges for the rental of the devices. At least two lawsuits have been filed against the company alleging that it has misled immigrants by not initially disclosing the high costs for entering its program.
Donovan and company spokespersons insist they fully explain the costs involved and say the system they developed for bail release has resulted in the release of thousands of immigrants from detention that would otherwise spend months and sometimes more than a year in jail while they await court appearances to seek permanent U.S. residency.