RECENT NEWS REPORTS DETAIL THE RECENT ARREST OF WILLIAM SHEPARD ELLISON

Ellison who owns Shep’s Discount Furniture on Normandy Boulevard and Shep’s Chicken and Auction House on Beaver Street, was in the news last year upon his arrest for Trafficking in Hydrocodone and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.  Those charges arose out of a Florida Department of Law Enforcement raid on Eillison’s home and business pursuant to a search warrant.  Those charges were later dropped by the State Attorney’s Office.

The recent arrest, per the reports, is out of a long term, two state, multi county, investigation by Florida’s Attorney General’s Office.  Ellison turned himself into Orange County law enforcement authorities on a $1.5 Million Dollar Warrant.  The details regarding the investigation are still coming into news outlets but what has been reported thus far is the Ellison’s two stores were utilized as  clearing houses for stolen merchandise.  Some of the items sold by Ellison were beer, power tools, appliances, and energy drinks.  The merchandise was stolen from semi-trucks and containers in Georgia and Florida and brought to Ellison for re-sale.  The total value of the merchandise is estimated at over one million dollars. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally held a news conference announcing the arrest of Ellison as well as two other men, Pedro Hernandez and Lewis Dominguez.  A fourth man, Juan Carlos Castaneda Quintana is currently at large according to authorities.  News4Jax and The Florida Times Union have both reported on the recent arrest of Ellison.

THE POTENTIAL CHARGES ELLISON FACES

Ellison certainly faces an uphill battle regarding his charges.  In any Racketeering (RICO) case the State of Florida will build in certain predicate acts to prove the RICO charge.  Each violation of Florida Law may be added as charges against Ellison as the additional charges show the ongoing criminal activity. In Florida Racketeering Activity means to commit, to attempt to commit, to conspire to commit, or to solicit, coerce, or intimidate another person to commit any crime that is chargeable by petition, indictment, or information under several of the Florida Statutes, to include theft, dealing in stolen property, and schemes to defraud.  The State of Florida is required to prove that the pattern of racketeering activity, happened on at least two incidents of racketeering conduct that have the same or similar intents, results, accomplices, victims, or methods of commission or that otherwise are interrelated by distinguishing characteristics and are not isolated incidents.

The State of Florida will rely on each individual illegal act committed by Ellison.  The largest charge jumping out at the reading of the news stories is the charge of dealing in stolen property under Florida State Statute 812.019.  Dealing in stolen property is defined as “Any person who traffic in, or endeavors to traffic in, property that he or she knows or should know was stolen shall be guilty of a felony of the second degree.”  For Ellison and the others mentioned earlier, each time stolen merchandise was brought to Ellison for Ellison too in turn sell through his stores, a separate dealing in stolen property charge can be added.  Every time Ellison knowingly purchased stolen property he committed a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in Florida State Prison.  Further each time Ellison sold the stolen merchandise he committed an additional dealing in stolen property.  The State of Florida will take each of the sales of merchandise among the individuals charges as predicate offenses to the racketeering.

Although Ellison appears to be the clearing house for all of the stolen merchandise, if the State of Florida has evidence that Ellison orchestrated the stealing of the merchandise to begin with, Ellison may further be charged with Grand Theft under 812.014 of the Florida Statutes.  A person commits theft if he or she knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or to use, the property of another with intent to, either temporarily or permanently deprive the other person or a right to the property or a benefit from the property.  Even if Ellison himself did not physically steal the trucks, if he orchestrated it, encouraged it, or enticed others to do it, the principal theory under Florida law would allow Ellison to also be charged with the Grand Theft charges.  Ellison may face a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years in prison based on the amount of stolen property being greater than $100,000.00.

Racketeering in and of itself is set up in a manner to take down an entire criminal enterprise.  The initial cases against the Mafia utilized at the time the new Racketeering laws.  The heads of the Mafia families, although personally not committing the crimes themselves, benefited from the illegal activity.  In the case of Ellison, it appears he was also a willing participant in the criminal activity. Ellison, although arrested on very serious charges on what is setting itself up to be a high profile prosecution by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, is entitled to the presumption of innocence and to have his attorneys confront his accusers by taking the case to a jury trial.  Continue reading

Recent Report States the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Continues to go after Heroin Dealers Aggressively

A recent News4Jax story explains the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office attempt to reduce the amount of heroin overdoses in Jacksonville.  The story states that six people have been arrested in a targeted effort to rid the community of the drug (Heroin).  The article was published on March 9, 2017.

Benjamin Studybaker was arrested for selling Heroin.  His actual arrest was for Possession of Heroin with Intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Deliver within 1000 ft of a Convenience Business.  Studybaker’s arrest was dated  January 13, 2017.  A review of the arrest and booking sheet shows  Studybaker was contacted by undercover narcotics officers through the social media website Facebook.  A deal was struck in which Studybaker would meet the undercover detective at a specified location and sell heroin in exchange for $60.00.  When Studybaker arrived at the pre-determined location, he was taken into custody, before any hand to hand transaction took place.  No naroctics were recovered on Studybaker’s person.  A search of the area Studybaker where was standing revealed 3 tin foil packets containing Heroin.  Studybaker denied any knowledge of the narcotics found by JSO.

Reviewing Studybaker’s court records show that the State of Florida filed a lesser charge of Possession with Intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Deliver of a Controlled Substance.  Mr. Studybaker’s case was transferred to Veteran’s Court, a diversionary program for Veterans.  The Possession with Intent Charge is a Second Degree Felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in Florida State Prison.  If Studybaker successfully completes Veteran’s Court, his case will likely result in a drop, as if it never happened.

Leeanne Pegg was arrested on February 9, 2017, for Sale of Heroin.  A review of her heavily redacted arrest reports shows that she was contacted at a hotel on Main Street by undercover narcotics detectives.  A narcotics conversation took place in which Pegg agreed to sell the undercovers $20.00 worth of Heroin.  After the transaction was completed, Pegg was taken into custody.  The $20.00 was recovered inside of Pegg’s shirt.  The money would have been pre-marked by the undercover detectives in the hopes that it would later be recovered on Pegg during the take down.

A review of court records for Pegg shows that the State of Florida filed a Sale, Manufacture, or Deliver of a Controlled Substance.  Pegg’s case is currently pending a review for the diversionary program Drug Court.  A Sale of Heroin charge is a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in the Florida State Prison.  If Pegg successfully completes her Drug Court Program, her case will likely end in a drop, as if the case never happened.

Michael Harris  and Sophia Cheek were arrested on January 17, 2017, by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office SWAT team for Possession of Heroin with Intent to Sell, Manufacture, or Deliver.  A review of the redacted arrest and booking report shows that the SWAT team entered the home and located Harris and Cheek in a front bedroom.  A search of Harris’ person revealed several baggies of heroin in his front right pocket.  A search of the bedroom revealed multiple baggies and straws with drug residue on them.  Harris and Cheek both stated, according to the police, in an interview that they are heroin users. A review of Harris’ court records shows that the State of Florida Filed a Simple Possession of Heroin charge.  Harris plead guilty on February 15, 2017 and received 6 months in the Duval County Jail.  If the search warrant was in fact valid, the State of Florida had a simple case against Harris to prove the crime of possession.  All that would be needed is for a SWAT member to come into the courtroom and state, “I found heroin inside of Mr. Harris’ pocket.”A review of Cheek’s court records shows that her case was not filed (dropped), by the State of Florida on February 7, 2017.  The drop is likely based on the simple jury instruction stating that mere proximity to an illegal substance is not enough to prove possession.

Both Harris and Cheek’s initial charge for Possession with Intent is a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in the Florida State Prison.  It is extremely difficult for the State of Florida to prove Possession with Intent cases based on the law and case law.  This likely explains why Harris’ charge was bumped down to Simple Possession.  Possession of heroin, like many other narcotics or drugs is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in the Florida State Prison.

Terraneus Taylor was arrested on January 17, 2017, for three counts of Sale of Heroin and Possession of not more than Twenty Grams of Marijuana (Cannabis).  Taylor’s arrest report is not currently available for review based on Florida’s broad Public Records law. A review of Taylor’s court records shows that the State of Florida filed three separate Sale or Delivery of Heroin charges against Taylor.  Each count is a separate second degree felony in carrying up to fifteen years in Florida State Prison.  If each sale is a separate incident, each count can be run consecutive, back to back, raising the maximum to forty five years in Florida State Prison.  The Possession of Cannabis charge was dropped by the State of Florida for unknown reasons.  If the State would have proceeded on the cannabis charge, Taylor would have faced a first degree misdemeanor charge with a maximum sentence of one year in the Duval County Jail.  Taylor’s sentencing is pending.

David Walker is the sixth person arrested in the targeted operation.  At the time of the writing of this article, no information was available regarding Walker’s arrest or court proceeding.

By simply reading the News4Jax article it is not clear if the intent is to show a great reduction in Heroin on the Streets of Jacksonville.  The information available shows that a total of $80.00 worth of Heroin was involved in the Sales and two addicts were arrested by the SWAT team.  In the courtroom, two cases have gone to diversionary programs, one case was flat out dropped, one case resulted in a six month jail sentence, one case is pending sentencing, and the other is unknown.  Perhaps to an uneducated reader, one may assume the Jacksonville Sherriff’s Office is putting a dent in Heroin on the streets.  The purpose of the article would lead you to believe JSO went out and arrested six people “Aggressively,” however it is six arrests that have taken place one to two months ago.  It is clear Jacksonville has a heroin addiction(an article shows over 500 jacksonville heroin overdose deaths in 2016) and overdose problem and the heroin surge has to be battled; however, this is a feel good story about an approach is nothing more than a numbers game. This is nothing more than the police picking off the available low hanging fruit.

STEPS TO TAKE IF YOURSELF OR A LOVED ONE HAS BEEN ARRESTED FOR DRUG POSSESSION OR SALES

If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged on similar charges discussed above or any other drug offense or narcotics related case including Trafficking, Sales, Possession with Intent, or Simple Possession you will certainly need an attorney .  Almost all North Florida criminal defense lawyers give free consultations and/or jail visits.

Please give the Forbess Law Firm, 904-634-0900, a call for a free consultation.   Our firm handles narcotics and drug cases on a daily basis in Duval (Jacksonville), Nassau, Clay, Baker, St. Johns, Bradford, Volusia, Flagler, Putnam  and other surrounding counties.  Further, upon the arrest of yourself or a loved one,  our law firm is always available to argue for a reasonable bond in First Appearance Court.  We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to represent you and your loved ones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ray Forbess, Jr.

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Several Car Burglaries Reported in St. Johns County

Recent news stories detail the arrest of a 14 year old boy in regards to several car burglaries in St. Johns County.  The 14 year old can’t be named because juvenile names are not allowed to be disclosed under Florida law.  The 14 year old has been charged with armed burglary to a conveyance and grand theft.  The 14 year old currently remains in the custody of the Juvenile Justice Department.  A 17 year old co-defendant is currently on the run at this time. The News4Jax story states that the 4-5 vehicles broken into were all unlocked, and firearms along with other personal items were stolen.  It is often known by car burglars that people keep firearms, laptops, tablets, and other high end electronics in addition to cash and change inside of their vehicles. A separate news story published by the Florida Times Union details the concerns of law enforcement in regards to car burglaries.  The title of the Times Union Story says it at, “Sheriff: Guns stolen from unlocked cars may be contributing to violent crime.”  It is quite often that law enforcement officials blame car burglars for supplying guns to criminals on the street.

Crime of Opportunity

Most Car Burglaries are very similar in nature.  They are often committed by juveniles, often times with more than one juvenile at a time, in upper scale neighborhoods or apartment complexes, with the vehicles being found unlocked.  When these type of cases come into play, a group of juveniles get together and walk a neighborhood, going car to car, checking door handles to see if the vehicle is in fact unlocked.  Once an unlocked vehicle is located, the juveniles will “toss” the vehicle to take anything of value.  It is common that in a single neighborhood, the juveniles will locate several cars during the night to break into.  The tough question for law enforcement and state attorneys is proving which vehicle was broken into by which juvenile.  This can be proven by which property if found on which juvenile, where the juvenile is taken into custody, and what the juvenile tells law enforcement when caught.  The simplicity and low cost of surveillance cameras have also assisted law enforcement in the arresting of people breaking into cars.  The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office has even given images to several news outlets in an attempt to help locate the 17 year old still on the run. Continue reading

Only on Job a Week, No Union Protection, Terminated

According to a report, a nineteen year old  Jacksonville Sheriff’s Corrections Officer was arrested and charged after leading his co-workers on a high speed chase on February 4, 2017.  Joshua Vergara who had been a recruit for only one week with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has been charged with Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer, Leaving the Scene of an Accident Without Providing Information and Reckless Driving.

A review of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Arrest Report gives details into the incident.  A patrol officer first observed Vergara traveling at a high rate of speed on Old Baymeadows RD as well as ran a red light causing other drivers to “break abruptly.”  The patrol officer initiated his lights to pull over the vehicle for reckless driving.  At this time the patrol officer caught up to the vehicle and “got a very good look at the driver.”  Vergara did not simply pull over at this point, and instead chose to speed off nearly crashing into other motorists.  At this point the patrol officer states that he shut off his take down lights and terminated the pursuit, however continued to maintain visual contact of the vehicle as it turned onto Southside BLVD.  During the pursuit, a concerned motorist spoke to the patrol officer and stated that his vehicle was struck by a vehicle matching the description of  Vergara’s vehicle.  The vehicle was a black BMW with New York plates.

Duval Man Arrested for Gun Charge in Case Involving Deceased Five Year Old

A thirty four year old man has been arrested and charged with Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon after an investigation into a murdered five year old girl.  According to a news report,  the incident occurred on Saturday, February 4th at the Roosevelt Garden Apartments.   Before the incident occurred a mother went to the store leaving her eight year old son, five year old daughter, and four year old neighbor alone in the apartment.  During this time the eight year old accidentally shot a gun tragically killing his five year old sister and wounding the four year old neighbor.

The Investigation Lead to the Arrest of Maurice Antonio Mobley

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Homicide Unit conducted an investigation as to what occurred to leave an innocent five year old dead at the hands of her eight year old brother.  Certainly a question that needed to be answered is why were the three minors left in an apartment alone, and how on earth did an eight year old get his hands on a firearm.  Based on the recent arrest of Maurice Antonio Mobley, it is clear that Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is placing the blame on Mobley for bringing the firearm into the apartment.  Based on the reports, Mobley was not present during the tragic shooting, however it is clear that someone saw Mobley possess the gun in the past.  More than likely the mother of the deceased five year old told Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office that the gun belonged to her boyfriend.  Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office would then run the background of Mobley and discovered he is a multiple time convicted felon as well as a Registered Sex Offender. Continue reading

REARRESTED 30 DAYS AFTER PLEADING TO SEX CASE IN COLUMBIA COUNTY

Former Gainesville and Lake City music teacher David O’Neill was labelled a sex offender under Florida law on December 19, 2016.  According to police and court records, O’Neill, who actually has a doctorate degree in music, education  or music education from the University of Florida, awarded in 2013, was rearrested right at 30 days(January 19, 2017) from his December 2016 sentence of five years probation in a Columbia County sex case.  This is according to a report out of Gainesville, Florida, http://www.gainesville.com/news/20170120/gpd-sex-offender-violates-registration-in-online-ads, 

Columbia County Sex Case

The two charges Dr. O’Neill was arrested  on in Columbia County Florida, back on February 15, 2016,  were originally a result of his actions communicating with a minor online in an attempt to have sex with that minor and the transmitting of material harmful to minors.  He entered a plea to the one count of the transmission of harmful materials to a minor and was placed upon 5 years of felony probation by the judge in Columbia County or Lake City, Florida.  Apparently O’Neill taught music in the Columbia County School system at one time.  He has also taught in the Alachua County school system prior to these arrests. At the time of this writing, it appears that the Judge in Columbia County originally sentenced Dr. O’Neill to five years of sex offender probation but then court records show that his probation was corrected to be five years of standard felony probation.  The difference between the two categories of felony probation are very significant.  Although any felony probation is something to contend with, sex offender probation under Florida law, carries the following additional conditions, restrictions and requirements:

  1. mandatory curfew from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.
  2. cannot reside within 1000 feet of a place where children regularly congregate( some counties such as Duval expand this to 2500 feet)
  3. active participation and successful completion of a sex offender treatment program
  4. no contact with the victim unless approved by the victim, the sentencing judge and the professional treating the sex offender
  5. if the victim was under 18, no contact with minors unless, same conditions as #4 above and the offender must be in sex therapy or have completed it
  6. if the victim was under 18, the offender cannot work for pay or volunteer at any place where children regularly congregate
  7. a prohibition on viewing, accessing owning or possessing obscene, pornographic or sexually stimulating material
  8. must submit a DNA sample (that is not just on sex cases anymore)
  9. restitution to the victim for all medical and psychiatric or psychological treatment related to the crime
  10. submission to a warrantless search by the probation officer of the person’s residence, person or vehicle (that’s not exclusive to sex cases)
  11. A polygraph exam, at least annually, by an examiner certified as a postconviction sex offender polygrapher
  12. must keep a driving log
  13. cannot keep a post office box without approval of probation officer
  14. if the charges allege sexual contact, probationer must undergo an HIV test and results provided to victim and/or victim’s parents or guardian
  15. electronic monitoring by GPS
  16. cannot access the internet until a risk assessment is completed and a safety plan implemented by the treating professional
  17. for offenders with victims under 18, the offender cannot hand out Halloween candy, dress as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny

 

The Alachua County Arrest

Dr. O’Neill was arrested on January 19, 2017,  on three new charges.  As stated earlier it appears the sentencing judge in Coumbia County had placed him on a standard felony probation as opposed to the above described sex offender probation.  Although not on sex offender probation, the doctor was still labelled a Florida sex offender with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and had requirements placed upon him with that designation. The narrative portion of his arrest report states that the doctor had been observed standing on a street corner in Gainesville advertising his business by holding a sign.  His business was apparently teaching piano lessons.  The sign contained a web address. When the officer went to the web address the site contained, according to the officer, a link to the doctor’s email and his cell number.  Further investigation by the officer revealed a Craigslist ad listing the doctor’s services.  Quoted from the arrest report, “The Craigslist ad, the website selling his services, and the contact e-mail are all NOT listed as internet identifiers on the DEF’s sex offender registration form, yet they facilitate communication through the internet, a violation of his conditions. ”  The officer arrested Dr. O’Neill for the three charges in violation of FS 943.0435(2)(4)(D).  Continue reading

WHAT ALL OF THESE PROGRAMS HAVE IN COMMON, STARTING WITH PRETRIAL SERVICES

The three different programs mentioned above have one major factor in common.  Any defendant that is offered programs such as these probably has a pretty minimal record. Secondly, the charges are not going to be serious charges along the lines of violence or concerning victims that need to be protected.  That’s because these offerings are about 95% within the discretion of the state attorney’s office whether to afford a criminal defendant the chance at one of these programs.  Outside of the state attorney’s office, Pretrial Services in Duval County affords the recently arrested a chance to be released from jail on a cheaper bond or an ROR, release on one’s on recognizance.  The decision to place a person on Pretrial services in Duval County is up to a few select correctional officers who are assigned to the first appearance courtroom at the jail.  These officers first read the arrest dockets looking at the nature of the charges across the board for individuals in the session of first appearance or “bond setting” court.  Many defendants will not even be considered for Pretrial Services, again, due to the nature of their charges.  Once the officer has his stack of individuals whom he thinks might qualify for Pretrial Services release, he pulls their local criminal history as a minimum and nationwide history if he or she has time.  The corrections officer then makes a recommendation to the first appearance court judge for the defendant to be placed into the program.  The defendant then signs an agreement to adhere to the conditions of the program.  Most judges set very reasonable bonds or ROR defendants once a Sheriff’s representative (the corrections officer) makes the recommendation.  Some of the common conditions of Pretrial Services are: weekly drug screening by urinalysis, the wearing of a drug patch, reporting in once a week to a Sheriff’s office location, community service hours, some type of classes trying to help the defendant with identified problems and, if there is a victim, no victim contact or no violent victim contact.  Some particular judges add that no guns or ammunition may be possessed and that the person remain “crime free.”  This writer has had plenty of experience with the program and the assigned officers running this program at the Duval County Pretrial Detention Facility.  This is a program that works.  If offered the opportunity to enter this program, every defendant should take advantage of it.

PRETRIAL INTERVENTION, BOTH MISDEMEANOR AND FELONY

Once a criminal defendant’s case leaves first appearance court, a prosecutor will be assigned to the case.  An exception to that would be if a person was arrested on a warrant which means a prosecutor, as well as a judge has already looked at the case and followed through with a warrant.  The space in time between first appearance court and arraignment is when individual prosecutors are reviewing their respective newly assigned cases and considering options or “filing decisions” setting the case on a path to a just disposition(at least in their mind).  Factors considered in  a filing decision that would result in a Pretrial Intervention, or PTI, offer would be a person’s criminal history, the nature of the immediate crime, any mitigation supplied by the defense attorneys, input from any victims and any possible repayment or restitution keeping the victim whole when a property crime is involved.  In North Florida, a person offered felony PTI will have a meeting set up at the Florida Department of Corrections, Probation and Parole Office.  This makes it seem very much like the person is on probation and many times those on felony PTI refer to their handler as their “P.O.” or their probation officer.  Their handler is actually a probation officer but is working in a “court services” position.  At the initial meeting the defendant will sign a PTI contract spelling out the terms.  The terms do come very close to what this writer labels as “probation in advance.”  The defendant is under the control of the state correctional officer at this point.  The defendant is usually restricted from leaving Duval, Nassau or Clay counties, must notify his or her handler within 24-48 hours or changing addresses, may or may not have a GPS ankle monitor, must report in every week, is subject to random drug testing, may have to make restitution payments, attend classes or rehabilitation programs, and, very similar to probation, his court services officer can go visit him at work or at home.  Overall, Pretrial Intervention at the felony level is one hell of a break for most defendants.  Once the conditions are met and/or the time period has passed with no problems, the department of corrections notifies the state attorney office that the defendant accomplished everything, the felony case is dropped, ie, not prosecuted by the state.  This programs works well also.  Thousands of folks arrested in North Florida have successfully avoided lifetime stigmas of a felony record by taking advantage of a PTI offer, commonly called “diversion” offered at the discretion of the prosecutor assigned to the case.  The flip side is one turns into a “PTI reject”(just what it means), and can’t complete the conditions, the state attorney simply, about 95 -99% of the time, simply files the original felony bringing lifelong implications to the defendant.  Misdemeanor PTI is an internal program run completely within the state attorney’s office.  Obviously, it’s a much easier program since the charges are misdemeanors.  Requirements are similar, classes, community service hours, maybe payments to some specified victim’s fund. There is no reporting, however.  The person just provides proof after 75-90 days that all is complete and, again, the charges are dropped.  The two most common misdemeanor charges PTI’ed in our area are marijuana charges and petty thefts. Continue reading

SUSPECT NOT ARRESTED UNTIL MULTIPLE SALES

A recent News4Jax story gives details into the arrest of Reco Benefield and Amber Troutman for drug charges and child neglect.   The news report states that an undercover Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Detective met with Benefield to purchase crack cocaine on January 11, 2017.   After the alledged  hand to hand drug sale was completed a takedown signal was given and  Benefield was taken into custody.  The same Detectives apparently had previously purchased crack cocaine from Benefield on December 15, 2016.  Benefield was also out on bond for 2016 Drug Charges dealing with the Sale of Pills (Oxycodone and Dilaudid) as well as crack cocaine on September 13, 2016 and September 14, 2016.

EVERYDAY TECHNOLOGY AND CELL PHONE USE COMES BACK TO HAUNT THE ACCUSED

Benefield’s cases all involve Undercover Narcotics Detectives utilizing cell phones to contact Benefield as well as to text Benefield.  The live phone calls between Benefield and JSO certainly will be recorded as evidence setting up the transactions.  Further it is fairly simple for JSO to print out copies of the text messages to utilize as evidence against Benefield.  Video recording devices are also often utilized to capture the transactions and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Arrest and Booking Reports reflect that they were used in all of the transactions with Benefield.

Mr. Benefield already has a tough road in front of him.  Each drug sale he is charged with carries a maximum of 15 years in Florida State Prison.  He currently has four separate and individual sales.  The maximum Benefield faces on just the drug sales is 60 years in Florida State Prison.  Further the State of Florida will be able to try each sale individually against Benefield.  Benefield would have to be found not guilty at trial four separate times.  The State of Florida can sit down and pick which case to try first, likely their strongest one.  The State of Florida gets to choose which case is tried first, as they have the burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  Many times, the local police will set up several “buys” with the same dealer.  Rather than arresting the dealer after the first sale, the police will leave a known dealer on the street, knowing full well that he or she is still selling.  The objective is to load the soon to be arrested dealer up with multiple cases.  If undercover police or a confidential informant conduct a purchase of drugs and the seller is arrested on the spot, that is called a “buy-bust.”  Here, the method employed originally was a “buy-walk” where the drugs were bought but law enforcement did not arrest the seller until later, and when arrested later, that was a “buy-bust” arrest.   The accused is entitled under the rules of discovery to see all of the evidence against him. In most of these drug sale cases the police have fairly decent videos of the transactions.  It is not known to this writer if the videos of Benefield show him doing anything illegal.  While he awaits trial he is also presumed to be innocent.

A NEW ARREST WHILE OUT ON BOND EQUALS A BOND REVOCATION

Since Mr. Benefield was out on bond for his earlier drug sales accusations, he likely will remain in the Duval County Jail until his cases resolve.  Anytime an individual is arrested for new charges, commonly referred to as “New Law Violations,” the State of Florida is able to file a Motion to Revoke Bond.  All that is required by the State to have a Motion to Revoke Bond Granted, is that probable cause existed for the arrest of Benefield on new charges.  Attaching an Arresting and Booking Sheet is all that is typically needed.  The State of Florida filed a Motion to Revoke bond against Benefield, which is almost automatically  heard by the Judge.  The Judge heard the State’s motion and in fact revoked Benefield’s bond on January 18, 2017.  Benefield is now being held with No Bond until his case is resolved.  Possibly down the road Benefield’s lawyer may be able to file a Motion to Set Bond, similar to a Motion to Reduce Bond, however the chances of the Court granting that motion are very slim. One additional concern, for those defendants that remain in jail, is the recording of all phone calls they make.  Local Prosecutors have made hundreds of cases simply because the inmate or his or her family bring up and discuss the facts of the case, even with a recorded warning issued at the start of every call.

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Teens Steal Purses in Coordinated Theft

A recent report by News4Jax states that nearly $18,000 of high end purses were stolen from a Kate Spade store at the St. Augustine Outlet Mall.  The theft happened during normal business hours.  The police report states that between seven or eight teens “burst” into the store, spread out, and grabbed 46 handbags/purses and ran out of the store.  A store employee attempted to block the door, but was unable to stop the thieves.  The teens were observed getting into a vehicle and the tag number was forwarded to law enforcement.

This style of theft is commonly referred to as a “Flash Mob.”  The goal is to get enough people involved knowing that a small store will not have the man power loss prevention people in place to stop everyone involved.  Here the seven to eight teens were able to storm the store and take 46 handbags/purses, and the employees of Kate Spade were not able to stop a single teen.  Across the country these types of thefts have occurred on a larger scale at larger retailers like WalMart and Target.

SANTA COULD MISS CHRISTMAS

On December 19, 2016 undercover detectives from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested Isaac Earl Geiger for several narcotics charges.  Per a News4Jax story, the Sheriff’s office were conducting an investigation on Golfair Boulevard based on recent complaints regarding drugs and/or illegal narcotics.  During the investigation, the Sheriff’s Office noticed Geiger standing at the door of a U-Haul rental truck in the parking lot.   Geiger was dressed in a red Santa Suit.  The Sheriff’s Office reports that they observed Geiger go to and from the U-Haul several times, retrieving items, and walking away.  Upon Geiger detecting the police presence, Geiger fled on foot.  The report states that Geiger “Tripped” over his Santa pants while fleeing from the police.  While being taken into custody, Geiger refused to take his hands out from underneath his body.  A search of Geiger revealed a large sum of cash and a plastic baggie containing narcotics.  The Sheriff’s Office returned to the U-Haul and observed a large amount of marijuana in plain view on the driver’s seat of the U-Haul.   A search of the U-Haul revealed additional marijuana, a scale, MDMA commonly referred to as ecstasy, Molly (another purer form of MDMA) and additional money.  It is unclear based on the report if Geiger was the target of the complaints or not. Geiger was arrested and charged with several violations of Florida State Statute 893.13 which deals with illegal drug possession, sale of drugs, possession of drugs with intent to sell, and paraphernalia.  Specifically, Geiger was charged with three counts of Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Sell within 1000 Feet Public Housing (First Degree Felony), two counts of Possession of Cannabis with Intent to Sell within 1000 Feet of Public Housing (Second Degree Felony), Resisting an Officer without Violence (First Degree Misdemeanor), and Possession with Intent to Use Drug Paraphernalia (First Degree Misdemeanor).

THESE CHARGES COULD MEAN SANTA MISSES THE NEXT FEW CHRISTMASES

Geiger faces a maximum of one hundred and twenty two years in the Florida State Prison system as he is currently charged.  The defendant faces thirty years for each first degree felony, fifteen years for each second degree felony, and one year for each first degree misdemeanor.   However, the State likely is barred from filing multiple counts regarding the same illegal substance.  For example the State likely will be unable to prove two separate counts of Possession of Marijuana or three separate counts of Possession of MDMA. Furthermore, it is almost impossible for the State to file and prove that the Narcotics found inside of the U-Haul were placed or possessed there with the intent to sell.  Even with large sums of money, scales, and even a confession that narcotics were possessed with the intent to sell at a later date is usually not enough for a conviction.

Another burden the State will have to overcome is the “Possession” element of the crimes charged.  Florida law defines Possession in two ways, Actual Possession and Constructive Possession (Florida State Statute 893.13(6)).  Actual Possession means the person is aware of the presence of the substance and the substance is in the hand of or on the person, or, the substance is in a container in the hand of or on the person, or the substance is so close as to be within ready reach and is under the control of a person.  If Geiger actually did have a plastic baggie containing narcotics in his Santa suit, then the State may move forward under the actual possession theory as the argument is that the substance is within ready reach and is under the control of the person.   Constructive possession means the person is aware of the presence of the substance, the substance is in a place which the person has control, and the person has the ability to control the substance.  Mere Proximity to a substance is not sufficient to establish the power and intention to control that substance when the substance is in a place that the person does not control.  All of the items found within the U-Haul the State will be required to prove the defendant’s knowledge and control.  This is often times were the hiring of defense lawyer  comes in to play.  Often times the defense attorney is able to have cases completely dropped based on this very simple analysis of the Florida Law defining possession. Continue reading