Crime Stoppers official who ate tipster's name avoids jail

MIAMI - The head of Crime Stoppers for Miami-Dade County, who was found in contempt of court last week after he ate a piece of paper containing the name of an anonymous tipster, will not have to face jail time for his actions, reports CBS Miami.

Richard "Dick" Masten Executive Director of Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers, was put on probation by Circuit Judge Victoria Brennan Thursday morning and was ordered to write a report about anonymous tip laws instead of spending time behind bars, according to the station.

Judge Brennan last week ordered Masten to provide a defense attorney with information about an anonymous tip Crime Stoppers received in relation to a cocaine possession case. Masten, a former police chief, refused to comply, saying that the integrity of Crime Stoppers - which pledges to keep all tips anonymous - would be compromised.

The defense lawyer said that only the tip's information is important, and not the identity of the tipster, CBS Miami reports. Police officers in court said that, though regular tipsters are not guaranteed anonymity, Crime Stoppers tipsters are.

Judge Brennan told Masten on Thursday that he acted out of either "willfulness" or "ignorance" when he ate the tip, and that tips are often given to prosecutors for substantiation and corroboration. She also said that the tip became a public record once Masten had emailed it to the prosecution, according to the station.

Earlier this week, when he was facing the prospect of jail time, Masten said, "I don't like the idea of going to jail, but I didn't really have any alternative." He continued, "The way I look at it, we make a solemn promise to our tipsters that we'll never let them be indentified."

"[Defense attorneys] would like to see [tipsters] made into a witness and have to answer for that. But once that ever happens, we're going to lose our program. No one will trust us anymore," Masten said.

Crime Stoppers has helped solve approximately 34,000 crimes in 20 years, Masten said.