Jacksonville Beach photographer, already in jail, receives additional charges

Currently jailed Jacksonville Beach photographer Mario Peralta was just given “add-ons” in jail speak. Add-ons are additional charges placed on a defendant already in custody on other charges. These are additional charges resulting from two search warrants generated following his initial arrest.  Peralta was initially arrested back in May, 2015, per the police report, after the father of a young female client of his photography and video studio discovered a tiny camera planted in a digital clock.  The clock was in the changing room.  The police report states the father removed the SD card from the clock, put it in his pocket and later reviewed the contents of the SD card once he got home to his own computer. The report states that the father notified law enforcement after seeing the video images of naked young girls stored on the SM card. Mr. Peralta has retained legal counsel and is presumed innocent until he either enters a plea or the state attorney proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

Search warrants, arrest warrants

As is very common in cases containing digital storage and digital history, once a defendant is in custody, law enforcement wants to examine any cell phones, tablets, laptops and work and home personal computers attributed to the recently arrested suspect.  Law Enforcement today is extremely tech savvy.  If a small police agency does not have the expertise or equipment to forensically examine digitally stored evidence, frequently a larger neighboring department or federal agency is called in.  Here, this investigation was conducted by  the Jacksonville Beach Police Department.  From the reports listed in public records, it appears that the detectives at Jacksonville Beach requested two separate search warrants.  One search warrant was for the suspect’s home.  This resulted in law enforcement carrying off several thumbdrives, hard drives, external hard drives and two computer “towers.”    The second search warrant obtained by Jacksonville Beach Police was sought and granted giving them the authority to forensically examine the contents of the items seized.  The reports state that the forensic examination was conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s computer forensic investigation lab.  While this defendant sat in jail on his initial charges, Homeland Security, based upon a judge signing the second search warrant,  examined the contents of the items taken in the first warrant.  Records show that the report from the federal analysts was issued to Jacksonville Beach Police in early November, 2015.  Once local law enforcement saw that they could charge this defendant with more crimes, arrest warrants were sought by the police.  It appears that from  the reports  two arrest warrants were generated and although the defendant was already in jail, he was arrested on new charges, once the warrants were served on him.  Locally a defendant receives an “add-on” by simply being taken from his cell down to classifications, being advised of the new charges and being fingerprinted on the new charges.   Serving an arrest warrant on a defendant already in jail is more akin to an administrative procedure as opposed to an arrest in the field.

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Blood Alcohol Level of .279, Crashed Doing 120 MPH in a 30 MPH Zone, Killed 12 Year Old Girl

Stanley Jefson, of Jacksonville, prior to his latest arrest for the above incident, had three local convictions for driving under the influence, the last being in 2009.  He was also, according to court records, a graduate of the county’s drug court program back in the nineties.  On April 4th of this year, according to News4Jax.com. Jefson crashed doing 120mph at a Jacksonville intersection, seriously injuring himself and others. Days later, one young victim died, 12 year old Savannah Pheiffer.  The date of Jefson’s accident was April 4, 2013.  Seventy days passed before he finally was arrested on June 13, 2014, and taken off the streets to face 24 separate charges ranging from, dui manslaughter, dui with serious bodily injury, vehicular homicide, dui with damage and reckless driving.  He is now in the Duval County Pretrial Detention Facility and despite all of the above, Jefson is presumed to be innocent and is entitled to a vigorous defense.

Why Wait 70 Days? Don’t Drunk Drivers Go Straight To Jail?

What occurred in Jefson’s case with the 70 day delay is because the State Attorney’s office had to wait on blood test results in order to obtain an arrest warrant. In a case with a death or serious bodily injury, the police will either have a paramedic draw the suspect’s blood at the scene or at the hospital.   In Jefson’s earlier dui arrests, as in almost all dui arrests, the person goes to the local county jail for a breath test.  The state threshold for a person’s alcohol content is a “.08 blow” but once arrested, even if a “triple zero” or “.000 blow”, the dui case proceeds and the state attorney will be seeking a dui conviction.    The county jail has certain corrections officers who are “breath test operators” sitting across from the recently brought in drunk driving suspect for twenty minute observation period and ascertain if the person is going to blow or refuse to blow.  The breath test operator also goes over forms informing the arrested that any refusal of the test results in a 12 months suspension of one’s license.  Here, Jefson remained out of jail while the police and the state attorney’s office awaited the blood test results from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Once his results came in a warrant was obtained, he was arrested and went to jail.  Bottom line here is that a guy as dangerous as Jefson(after all, he was out for 70 days after the accident, hopefully not drinking and driving…but who knows?) stays out of jail while the person who blows below a .08 stays in jail for the night of the arrest, goes before a judge the next morning and gets asked how they want to plead on their dui case.  If they plead out they are on misdemeanor probation.  If they don’t plead out the judge will sometimes ROR them but usually sets a bond with conditions of pretrial release established. If they blow or don’t blow, or blow below the ..08 state law threshold they are still not going home. They stay in jail and go before a judge on a pending dui charge.  Those are first time offenders, sometimes below the limit, who have injured nobody yet staying in jail.

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$20 Million Annual Contract to Hold 650 Men

Florida has a facility tucked away in the small, nondescript town of Arcadia.  Under Florida law, an inmate with a sexually violent past or a history of sexually motivated offenses will be scrutinized just before his release from jail or prison.  If deemed a threat to reoffend, he will be “Ryced Out” and sent to the Florida Civil Commitment Center in Arcadia.  The Jimmy Ryce Act regarding civil commitment is named after a  nine year old, Samuel James Ryce, who was raped, decapitated and dismembered by Juan Carlos Chavez.  Chavez was executed in February of 2014.  The Jimmy Ryce act allows the State of Florida to hold designated sex offenders essentially for life.  This form of risk management by the state can keep a man behind the razor wire(but it is  not to be called prison) because he might offend in the future.  He is held because he might commit future sex crimes.  He can be coming out of prison on a totally non-violent, non-sex charge for which he has served his sentence.  If he has a sexually motivated offense in his past, the “Thought Police” of the combined bureaucracies of the Department of Corrections, the Department of Children and Families and the State Attorney’s Office can send him to Arcadia for the rest of his life without his recently completed sentence having anything to do with sex.  He will be held indefinitely without any new crime being committed.  Florida subcontracts out this Guantanamo style of incarceration(no crime required, years between court dates, fear of future offenses) to the GEO corporation after previously jobbing out the facility to Liberty Healthcare for seven years.

The GEO Corporation

The GEO Corporation is based in Boca Raton, Florida and is reported to be our country’s second largest operator of privately operated prisons.  The firm was known as Wackenhut in the past.  The corporate symbol on the NYSE is GEO.  According to financial statements the company reports to be growing at around 10% annually.  In 2011, the firm reportedly had 1.5 billion in debt to service mainly for money borrowed to buy out competitors and diversification.  CEO and founder, George Zoley, according to Wall Street filings just expressed his own confidence in the profitability of private prisons by purchasing $5,337,896 worth of his own company’s stock in May of this year.  Arcadia is just one of the dozens of facilities GEO runs for governments stretching as far as South Africa and Australia.  Arcadia is actually run under the moniker, GEO CARE.


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“The Result Was The Wrong Person Was Accused of Crimes She Didn’t Commit”

Those are the words and apparent logic of Clay County Sheriff Rick Beesler according to an article in Jacksonville.com.  Ashely Nichole Chiasson was more than wrongfully accused.  The Sheriff, obviously an elected official, chose his words as euphemistically as possible.  His trusted counsel was mentioned in the article as well.  The Sheriff’s apology could not have taken long to put together since he just recently apologized for his department’s wrongful arrest of a young Clay County man.  Both apologies were necessary because his officers have demonstrated that investigations cease, warrants are obtained, arrests are made and poor people like Ms. Chiasson, unable to make a $10,003 bond, travel several states in a “prison van” while chained hand and foot, based solely upon a match of names.   Ms. Chiasson, per jail records, arrived at the Clay County jail shortly after 3 a.m. on January 23, 2014.  She had been arrested in Louisiana, sat in the Parish jail for days until she received “diesel therapy” heading eastbound on the road in what the apparent transport service here, Prisoner Transportation Services, describes on their corporate website as a “mobile jail.”  Now Beesler’s department has another lawsuit to defend or settle, using collected tax dollars, because of the “hey, we got a name match” style of investigation.   What Ms.Chiasson went through, the lawsuit the Clay County now has to defend, the bogus or incompetently completed affidavit for a warrant presented under oath by a sworn detective to a judge, the State Attorney’s office bringing forth two cases in error are all results of Ms. Chiasson being “accused” as the Sheriff says. One result might be an erosion of the public’s trust in his department.  One result might be that potential Clay County jurors are less inclined to believe Sheriff Beesler’s officers as they testify in future trials.  One result is that the true criminal here is possibly still in the community, possibly still committing crimes.


If an officer does not effect a probable cause arrest, he or she will fill out an “Affidavit for Arrest Warrant” and take it to a judge for a signature.  The officer will either show identification or be “personally known” to the judge.  Most importantly, the officer swears to the judge that what is in the affidavit is the truth.  The judge will either sign and issue the warrant or send the officer away with instructions that more is needed, in the judge’s opinion, before a warrant can be lawfully issued. The judge is looking to see that a crime occurred and what the officer has to present to prove that a certain person committed the crime.  When the judge signs the warrant a decision is then made on the amount of monetary bond.  If the charges are serious enough or the danger to the community is great, the judge may make it a zero bond warrant.  Once arrested and represented by counsel, defendants that cannot make their bond usually schedule a court date, prior to arraignment, to be heard on a Motion to Reduce Bond, or Motion to Set Monetary Bond.  The sitting judge at first appearance court will almost never change the dollar amount of the bond.  This is because another judge, with more knowledge of the case(as presented by detectives above), made a decision on the bond amount.  Judges also set plenty of other pretrial release restrictions.  Common restrictions are; no returning home, no contact with the victim, no guns or ammo, gps ankle monitors, no driving, alcohol intake monitors, reporting to pretrial services and the accompanying drug screens, anger management and no leaving the county without permission.

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“Car Hopping” Becomes More Prevalent in Early Summer

According to an article in News4Jax.com, the crime of auto burglary, or as Florida law labels it, “burglary to a conveyance”, has picked up in Northern St. John’s county.  The article stated  the lasted rash of burglaries to conveyances has occurred at strip centers and even in high end gated communities.  The Florida statute that covers all of this is S810.02(b).  The term “conveyance” according to Florida Law, “means any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad vehicle or car, trailer, aircraft, or sleeping car.”  The crime of burglary is as old as time.  If one enters a dwelling, structure or conveyance with the intent to commit an offense once inside, that is a burglary. Many of the criminally accused are shocked when they find out that actual entry of the dwelling, structure or conveyance is not required to prove the crime of burglary. As an example, a criminal that goes beneath an off grade  building to cut out copper wiring and plumbing commits a burglary when he touches the building.  Going on a rooftop and kicking the air-conditioner down to the ground so one’s buddies can haul off the metal guts to the unit is a similar example of burglary.  In auto burglaries, the burglary starts when a person touches the car with the intent of getting inside of it and committing and offense.  Sticking one’s arm into a open car window can be a burglary to a conveyance.

The Investigation Usually Covers Several Cars in an Area

Citizens will call in to the police that their car has been broken into, reporting damage and what property is missing.  A patrol officer will be dispatched to the scene and write up the incident report, routing it to other officers in the burglary unit or the auto-burglary task force most large cities have.  Our office has discovered many times that the detective will rely on the patrol officer’s report and never go out to the scene or even look at the first vehicle.  Rarely are the vehicles processed for any forensic evidence such as fingerprints.  The average car burglar will be out at night in a nice neighborhood or apartment complex with his buddies.  Backpacks are worn to haul off loot.  The more hesitant participant will usually be posted as a lookout.  If the patrol officer can get to the crime as it is happening the carhoppers scatter.  Usually one or two of the kids will be arrested and taken to the station for a sitdown with the on-duty burglary detective.  Once sufficiently terrified and worried about their own well-being, they give the detective the names of their buddies.  The police will also work the local pawn shops, craigslist and ebay for stolen goods they can trace back to specific burglaries.  Every person identified as part of the group is subject to being charged with the crime.  This group is also subject to being charged with auto burglaries that occur in other parts of the neighborhood on the same night.  Doesn’t mean they can be convicted of the  charges but it is common for the burglary detective to tag the group members with all reported auto burglaries in a certain geographic area and timeframe.  Again, the detective does this many times without leaving his office.  Again, no forensic evidence is gathered in many cases. Continue reading →

The Poor Man’s Route to Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation

We are all quite familiar with drug and alcohol problems.  When the wealthy announce one of theirs has a problem, one envisions the addict or abuser in  the nice, expensive environs of Southern California, Palm Beach or the Arizona desert.  Classes include horseback riding, yoga, arts and crafts, nutrition  and physical fitness.  These programs are tremendously costly and marketed heavily in the moneyed community.  Most cities and counties have some type of “drug court” and/or some type of residential drug treatment.  In Duval County a separate felony division encompasses drug court.  A person arrested on a felony charge, if offered the chance at drug court will go through a 12-18 month program with at least weekly meetings at the courthouse.  The meetings are run in a court setting with plenty of encouragement from a sitting magistrate functioning as the group leader. It is still very much a courtroom with armed bailiffs who routinely cuff up those with dirty urine samples.  Those who do not obey the rules of drug court are subject to going to jail on a contempt of court charge.  That will happen a few times and the person will be kicked out of the program.  The felony case goes back to a line attorney for a filing decision on the original charge.  The felony almost always gets filed.  At this point the offender has blown a chance at cleaning up and will also pick up a criminal record.  The felony would have been dropped upon completion of drug court, assuming no other problems or criminal activity.  It is usually a drug crime or property crime strike on one’s record.

Drug and Alcohol Programs in Jail

Duval County has an outstanding drug abuse program in the jail.  The Matrix Program is run within the jail by a contractor, River Region Human Services.  The program is only for inmates.  The actual drug treatment program is 120 days and is run in a very militaristic fashion.  Most attendees are court ordered but inmates can put a request in on their own and see if they are accepted.  Certain crimes of a violent nature will prohibit one’s entry to the Matrix House. Since this is taxpayer money trying to clean people up, the program is limited to applicants who have been residents of Duval County for at least 12 months.   Usually, after the 120 days of treatment, the court will allow early release into “aftercare.”  The aftercare treatment and monitoring is the key to one’s success with the Matrix program.  It is possible to be sent to Matrix more than once. Continue reading →

Mount Pleasant Police Department Website and Sex Offenders

A former police chief, Brian Fanelli, of the Mount Pleasant police Department, has entered a not guilty plea to charges of possession and transmission of child pornography.  This is according to a May 21 article released by the Associated Press.  The police chief was arrested in January, still has the presumption of innocence and every right to mount a vigorous defense to these charges.  Ironically, the Mt. Pleasant Police Department, which Fanelli ran for the town of about 43,000 people, devoted a large amount of its website to inform the public about sex offenders in the area, who they are, where they live, what behavior led to their arrest, and even has a video the public can watch about sexual predators.  The site provides links and updates to alert the public about sex offenders that have newly arrived in town, down to the specific arrival date and residence of the offender.

Florida Sex Crimes

As stated in the article, this wave of New York arrests was done by a Homeland Security element of the Department of Immigration, Customs and Enforcement, commonly referred to by the acronym ICE.  In Florida, these type of sex crimes are usually investigated by a combination of federal, state and local law enforcement operating as amazingly proficient task forces.  At the local level, small police departments, although good at what they do on a daily basis, usually don’t have the talent, technology or budget for these more sophisticated investigations.  Florida Statute 847.0137  makes the electronic transmission of sexually explicit images of anyone under 18 years of age a third degree felony.  These sex crimes are prosecuted at either the state or federal level. In most child pornography cases there are a enormous amount of filed “counts” as each electronic  transmission or download represents a separate chargeable offense.  With such a huge amount of charges the defendant’s score, under the Florida sentencing guidelines, increases with every felony adjudication.  With today’s cell phone and tablet technology, many people send explicit photos back and forth.  This is very risky behavior and very much illegal if the photo is of a minor.  This is a new wave of crimes combining new or evolving technology with a person putting this technology to use in an illegal manner.  Much of this is done as “sexting” by young adults.   There was no such thing as an obscene phone call until the advent of the telephone. No grand theft auto statute until we had autos. There was no crime of fraudulent use of a credit card until credit cards came into existence.  The technology of today, when put to the wrong use, certainly exposes a large amount of people to an arrest on a sex charge. Continue reading →

Arrested in Volusia County

Law enforcement in Volusia County, Florida conducted a sex crime sting operation and arrested a former Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer, Brian McCree.  McCree, already retired from JSO at age 51, reportedly used a computer to entice or solicit a minor for sex.  The allegations are that McCree packed well for his trip to meet the supposed minor.  Reports state that he took a gun, a bottle of liquor and 100 images of child pornography to his arranged meeting with whom he thought was a minor.  The child sex sting netted 14 arrests with McCree being the oldest arrested.  McCree during his police career probably took hundreds of suspects “to the ground” as part of an arrest.  There is a video of McCree being taking to the gound himself on  News4Jax.com.

“There’s a Man Who is Supposed to be Protecting the Community Who Really is a Common Criminal”

Those are the words of Sheriff Ben Johnson in regards to McCree.  McCree, presumed innocent of course until proven guilty, will almost certainly receive prison time if convicted of these charges.  The history with Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers, or JSO, has been to continue to draw the lucrative pension even after a felony conviction for a sex crime.  Twenty-five year veteran of JSO, Richard Cannon, is doing a 30 year sentence for sex crimes with minors.  Cannon is still receiving his pension for life which means the taxpayers will pay to incarcerate Cannon and also fund a good portion of his guaranteed retirement.  Cannon was employed as an officer when arrested, resigning shortly thereafter.  McCree was already retired at 51.  Two other JSO officers recently resigned due to criminal problems.  Nelson Cuba was only a patrolman in rank but was the head of the powerful Fraternal Order of Police Union.  His multiple criminal  charges are still pending and he is presumed innocent with every constitutional right to fight his charges.  The police union’s number two man was Lt Robbie Freitas, who also was arrested, also is already drawing his pension, has entered pleas to his charges and is awaiting sentencing.  He entered a plea to a felony and has agreed to cooperate in the case.  This case got Jennifer Carroll fired as Lieutenant Governor.  Former prominent and well respected Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis was convicted, disbarred and sentenced to 6 years in prison on his criminal charges.  These charges all stemmed from internet gaming rooms which the state attorney claimed were illegal gambling operations.  Cannon, Cuba and Frietas were all active Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers at the time of their arrest.  Up until the instant the handcuffs went on their wrists, they had the power to detain, the power to arrest, the power to fill out a sworn affidavit for a warrant and take it to a judge. Ultimately, each one of them had the power to use the Glock .40 sidearm or M4 .223 rifle issued to them by the department.   Continue reading →

Florida Residents May Carry Weapons Openly

Florida is a very pro gun rights and 2nd Amendment state.  Florida also has a  huge number of concealed weapons permit holders.  Recently, stories have hit the press describing how certain gunowners go fishing while wearing their sidearms old West style.  As strange as this may seem, the openly armed anglers are within the law.  Open carry is permitted under Florida law when the person carrying is fishing, hunting, camping, attending a gunshow or shooting.  The law also allows a person to carry while going to  these activities or leaving such activities.  This leaves plenty open to interpretation by law enforcement and state attorneys.  Many gun rights activists have taken to carrying a fishing pole in their vehicle at all times.  Telling an arresting officer, “I am going fishing”, could mean one is driving from Pensacola to Key West to go fishing.  It could mean going out back into your yard when you get home and throwing a rubber worm into the retention pond for bass or bream.  An aggressive officer trying to make an arrest is going to usually ask a series of rapid-fire questions of the detained individual.  The officer will be trying, on the spot, to disprove any story about going fishing, camping etc.  Most individuals will probably talk too much and help the officer’s case.

Gun Show Every Weekend

Gun shows are a big business in Florida.  Profits from firearm sales benefit individuals, dealers, promoters and those that lease the facilities.  Private sellers carry guns around inside the show with asking prices marked on slips of paper attached to the weapon.  Weapons are traded and cash changes hands.  Gun shows usually have some form of  uniformed law enforcement sitting at the entrance to the show.  They check the weapons to make sure they are unloaded, then ziptie the bolt or cylinder in place with a small plastic band, and the person heads into the show.  The show attendee will also have to answer in the negative about carrying in any ammunition.  Once inside the show, at most 40-50 feet from the entrance, massive amounts of ammunition will be stacked on tables readily for sale.  Huge capacity magazines for most semi-automatic rifles and pistols are at the same tables.  Military kevlar helmets and body armor with ceramic inserts are sold at tables further back in most shows.  At most shows, attendees can go from the main display area into the restrooms with their purchases and then return to the show without going back through any inspection by the uniformed officer.   Continue reading →

Florida Statute S794.05, Unlawful Intercourse With a Minor of Previous Chaste Character

Under the above statute, a 24 year old who engages in sexual activity with a person 16 or 17 years of age commits a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.  The former school security officer in the instant case, according to Jacksonville.Com, Douglas Tilley, was arrested in January of this year for having sex with a 17 year old 12th grader he knew from the school he was assigned to guard.  Tilley’s arrest paperwork shows him as 25 years old.  Tilley’s attorneys were skilled enough to have the prosecution reduce the sex case down to a 3rd degree felony of Child Neglect, to which Tilley entered  a guilty plea.  Tilley received a withhold of adjudication meaning he was not convicted of the felony.  He entered a plea to a felony and will go on three years of felony probation but most importantly, he is not a convicted felon.  Should he come back to court for a violation of probation  during the next three years he would be facing possible jail or prison time and the withhold of adjudication would probably be converted to an adjudication of guilt, i.e., conviction.  Under Florida Law a probationer who violates probation is not entitled to a bond, even if on misdemeanor probation.  The setting or not setting of a monetary bond  on a warrant or capias for a violation of probation is purely at the discretion of the supervising  judge.

Rule Number One: Avoid the Sexual Offender or Sexual Predator Designation

The above defendant avoided a sex charge that would have had him registering with the State of Florida, or any state he moved to, for the remainder of his life.  On balance, many times a prosecutor will make a very fair offer to the defendant regarding any jail or prison time but still insist on the defendant getting the designation and strict monitoring as a sex offender.  Sex cases “score” in Florida.  This means that a person with no criminal history, once scored under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines Worksheet, is usually facing prison.  The prosecutor on the case has tremendous discretion and power as to just how the case is filed.  If the prosecutor files a case where the defendant “scores”, and the defendant either pleas or is convicted, the judge must sentence the defendant to at least the bottom amount of time on the sentencing worksheet. Defense attorneys can file a departure memorandum and motion prior to a sentencing hearing but the motion must clearly designate what are statutorily listed reasons for departure.  The court then has a two part test. First,the court has to determine if a departure is allowed. Secondly, the court determines is a departure should be allowed.  Many sex crimes carry minimum mandatory sentences up to an including a mandatory life sentence.  On mandatory life, if the defendant rolls the dice and exercises his or her constitutional right to a trial, and loses, they are going to die in prison. The judge is required to give a life sentence by law.  In many sex crimes there is no forensic evidence.  Often, the defendant is arrested and charged on allegations, 100% verbal statements of a victim only, that can come forward years later. The accused either negotiates a sentence that allows him to be released after 10 plus years into society as a sex offender, or, takes his chances at trial.  At trial, the defendant has to prove a negative which is a pretty hard task.  Usually the defense strategy focuses on the motivation and inconsistent statements of the victim.

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