In Tampa trial, family of Andrew Joseph III remembers ‘golden child’ and says there’s no proof he caused trouble at fair

Today, a Hillsborough Sheriff representative was evasive when asked why Joseph was painted as a criminal.

click to enlarge (L-R) Deanna, Deja and Andrew Joseph Jr. outside of the Sam M. Gibbons federal courthouse in Tampa, Florida on Sept. 19, 2022. - Justin Garcia
Justin Garcia
(L-R) Deanna, Deja and Andrew Joseph Jr. outside of the Sam M. Gibbons federal courthouse in Tampa, Florida on Sept. 19, 2022.

During day six of the federal trial for the wrongful death of Andrew Joseph III, his father, Andrew Joseph Jr., was shown the last known photo of his son.

It was a mugshot of the 14-year-old, taken by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 7, 2014. That night, HCSO took the child into custody, ejected and trespassed him from the Florida State Fair, despite no evidence of him committing a crime.

Joseph III died on I-4 that night, after a deputy allegedly told him and a friend that they had to cross the interstate to get back to where their ride was.

The photo was projected above Joseph’s head as he testified about his son’s life.

Andrew Joseph III’s eyes are wide in the picture as he looks away from the camera, with a wooden fence in the background. He was holding a card in front of him that said his name, the letters “b/m” standing for “Black Male” and his date of birth: 03/30/1999.

“I had no idea this existed,” Joseph said to the court when asked about the photo.

Joseph said that his son was the “kind of child that parents pray for” and called him a “golden child.” He pointed out how responsible his son was, and how he’d protect those around him, even small creatures like lizards that got in their house sometimes.

Throughout the trial, similar sentiments have been shared by his mother, Deanna Joseph, multiple friends of the family, a former football coach, and his younger sister Deja Joseph, who testified today.

“He was my protector, he was my everything,” Deja said.

But in the days after Joseph III died, HCSO told the media that dozens of kids were kicked out on the same night as Joseph for criminal behavior, and didn’t bother to separate his name from those involved.

In 2014, HCSO told the Tampa Bay Times that Joseph III was involved in “disorderly conduct on the midway.”

But lawyers for the Joseph family have pointed out that there’s been no evidence presented that the teenager ever committed a crime before he was grabbed by Corporal Mark Clark, a defendant in the case, and ejected.

Today Major Frank Losat—an HCSO representative testifying on behalf of defendant Sheriff Chad Chronister—was evasive under questioning about whether or not his department has done nothing in the past eight years to set the record straight about Joseph’s behavior that night.

Under questioning from Guy Rubin, a lawyer representing the family, Losat gave vague answers about the alleged bad behavior that Joseph III was lumped in with after his death.

“It was identified in the ejection form,” Losat said, referring to the document that called for Joseph III's expulsion. The form said that Joseph III was “running through the midway causing disorderly conduct.”

When asked if HCSO had ever sought to clear Joseph III’s name during the eight years after his death, Losat said, “No investigation was conducted.”

Rubin said that Joseph III’s name was “besmirched” by HCSO, and he asked if the department ever sought to correct that.

“Whatever phrase you want to use, that’s your terminology,” Losat said.

Judge Mary Scriven tried to get Losat to answer questions directly, but he avoided yes or no answers on the stand.

After Losat’s testimony, the family took turns testifying to the court about the suffering they’ve endured since Joseph III’s death, and how the mischaracterization of their son’s behavior by HCSO has only made that suffering worse for them.

His sister Deja said she can still see the effects of his death on both of her parents, and that the tragedy changed her youth completely.

“They see death in everything,” she said.

But she added that her family still celebrates the life of her brother.

“Our house is like a shrine,” she said. “Every room has a picture of him.”

During cross examination, HCSO lawyers highlighted how several other children were kicked out of the fair, and claimed that many called their parents and were picked up without being hurt or killed that night.

In the lead up to the trial, Joseph III’s mother Deanna told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that HCSO has wrongly tried to place blame on her son.

“What the sheriff’s office has done is to victim blame Andrew,” she said. “It’s just really appalling to me that the department sees it necessary to blame Andrew for his death when he was a child, while they were the adults in the situation.”

Since the trial started last week, Hillsborough Deputies have been caught telling conflicting stories, and Judge Scriven scolded the HCSO defense, telling the lawyers, “You can’t manufacture facts.” One of the commanding officers involved that night also said that individual deputies should be able to interpret state laws at their own discretion.

A law enforcement expert told the court that HCSO violated the Constitution and State Law by taking the children into custody with no evidence of a crime and failing to contact their parents.

Day seven of the trial is tomorrow, which will see the defense present its case.


Since 1988, CL Tampa Bay has served as the free, independent voice of Tampa Bay, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming a CL Tampa Bay Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today because you love us, too.

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

Scroll to read more Tampa Bay News articles

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.