Veteran Police Sergeant Falsified Work Records

St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar terminated a veteran police sergeant after a month long investigation into falsified police records.  Sgt. Monroe West, a 17 year veteran and leader of other officers in the department was arrested for two felony counts of schemes to defraud and a public servant falsifying official documents.  He was booked into the same jail he has taken others to for 17 years.  At this point in time he is presumed innocent and is afforded the same rights as any other person arrested and charged with a criminal offense.

The Sheriff Says the Sgt. Falsified His Time Card

Sgt. West brought attention to himself and was reported by other officers who noticed inaccuracies in his documentation.  In many police departments officers are allowed to work secondary employment for citizens and businesses.  The hours worked for secondary employment must be turned in to the officer’s department.  Here, West turned in paperwork showing he was working an off duty detail for pay ,as it turned out, during the same hours he was on the taxpayer’s clock as a supervising sergeant.  Apparently, this happened on several occasions according to Commander Chuck Mulligan of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office with the amount of double-dipping going into the thousands.  As in most fraud and deception cases, once a paper trail is established, the charges are hard to deny.  Here, the Sgt. was easily caught.

Jacksonville Officer Arrested for Official Misconduct, Falsifying Records and Grand Theft Jacksonville also had an officer arrested for the same type of false reporting in October of 2013, who resigned after being arrested for what started out as suspicious overtime submissions  investigated by the integrity unit.  Career Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer Dan Hamlin was arrested on 27 felony counts including grand theft, official misconduct and falsifying official records.  Most charges were dropped but he still faces five felony charges.  Hamlin stands accused of  turning in bogus overtime requests claiming hours he spent working on cases  with prosecutors preparing cases for trial.  The problem for Hamlin is  the integrity unit discovered that Hamlin was reporting hours on cases closed months before. He also stated he met to prepare for trial with certain prosecutors who have stated they never met with him, therefore, couldn’t have worked a case with him.  Investigators even recovered an eatery receipt from across town, on Hamlin’s bankcard, with his signature, for the exact time he was reportedly meeting with a prosecutor at the state attorney’s office.   According to the affidavit for the arrest warrant,  Hamlin’s fellow officers, as well as the judge who signed the warrant, believed  probable cause existed for 26 false submissions by Hamlin, each submission a felony charge.  The amount of money at issue was shockingly low, $4425.02 per records, compared to what this officer has lost and could face in the future.  Sgt. West was caught because he falsified records stating he was in two different places but at the same time.  Hamlin was caught because he falsified records stating he was working overtime prepping cases(which had been closed for months) for trial with certain state attorneys(who never met him).

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Baltimore Ravens Star Rice Indicted One Day, Marries Victim of the Charged Crime Very Next Day

NFL running back Ray Rice was indicted last week in New Jersey for aggravated assault against his fiancee, Janay Palmer.  Parts of the domestic violence episode were captured on security cameras at the Revel Casino and Hotel, located in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  Rice can been seen on one video dragging the unconscious Palmer by her arms out of an elevator.  Rice was charged with a third degree felony which could carry a three to five year sentence.  Ms. Palmer was also arrested for simple assault with prosecutors later deciding to drop that charge.  Rice married the victim in the case the day after the indictment on felony charges.  Rice signed a five year $35 million contract with his team prior to the 2012 season.  The couple is together, happy and in counseling according to The Press of Atlantic City after the paper spoke to Mr. Rice’s attorney. It is also reported that the victim, the new Mrs. Rice, does not wish to pursue the prosecution of her husband.

Spousal Privilege, Can She Be Forced To Testify?

The now happily married Mrs. Rice may or may not have to testify against her husband.  Many women in these type of domestic situations decide to be reluctant, recalcitrant, defiant witnesses for the prosecution to manage. Also, in the majority of states, a crime involving a victim is heavily victim-driven in the prosecutor’s office, with the victim’s desire for prosecution or lack of any interest in further prosecution weighing in on the prosecutor’s discretion to proceed or just drop the case.   Certain legal analysts, such as Lester Munson of ESPN, have stated that Mrs. Rice could claim spousal immunity, meaning a spouse can’t be forced to testify against the other spouse.  She could claim it but that does not guaranty it would be granted.  Although this is a New Jersey case, many states have similar evidence codes. Under Florida Statute 90.504(1), either spouse may claim a spousal privilege to communications  intended to be made in confidence between the spouses while they were husband and wife.  Additionally under Statute 90.504(3) (b), there is no spousal privilege during a criminal proceeding where one spouse is charged with a crime, committed at any time,  against the other spouse.   Under Florida’s laws Mrs. Rice could be forced to testify. If the prosecutor can prove the case without her through videos or other witnesses, they may take that route. Continue reading →

Colorado and Washington Legalized a Plant

The above two states are our nation’s first two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.  Possession of the plant is still a crime under federal law.  The legal clinics and dispensaries that are selling weed in these two states could be federally prosecuted if and when the federal government decides to get involved.  For now, it seems that the federal government is taking a hands off approach, allowing the states to regulate the plant on their own. After all, the federal government lets states exercise the enforcement of the death penalty or the abolition of the death penalty as they so choose.  One would think if the individual states can be trusted with the decision to kill or not to kill their convicted denizens, well, they might be able to regulate a plant without federal intervention.

So Far the Tax Man Wins

According to Colorado’s governor, as reported by the Associated Press, John Hickenlooper, the tax revenue from legalized pot sales is projected to be 98 million dollars in the first fiscal year.  This revenue is from a 12.9 percent sales tax rate  and a 15 percent excise tax on recreational weed.  Medical marijuana is subject to only a 2.9 percent sales tax.

Where The Weed Tax Will Go

Colorado’s governor has outlined a spending plan for the marijuana tax revenue.  The money will be spent in the following areas: 1. youth use prevention 2. substance abuse treatment 3. public health 4. media campaigns regarding marijuana use 5. an anti driving while stoned campaign 6. a 105 bed residential treatment facility and 7. school construction.

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Florida Laws are Tough on Sex Offenders

Florida residents, through their elected officials,  have enacted some of the nation’s toughest penalties for those convicted of sex crimes.  According to News4Jax.com, 47 year old Elmer Bowman, after being convicted of kidnapping, torturing and raping a young woman, who, according to law enforcement was a prostitute, may be sentenced to life in prison along with the added chemical castration the prosecution is seeking.  The state attorney’s office has given Bowman the flexiblity of voluntarily submitting to a physical castration as opposed to the chemical castration.  The State of Florida does not blind the convicted voyeur, does not cut the hand off of the convicted thief, does not cut off the feet of those who flee from police; however, in certain sex crimes, the body parts of the convicted male are subject to chemical destruction or physical removal.  There is no mention of any such punishment for female sex offenders.  For anyone with a background in ranching or raising horses what happens here is essentially “gelding a stallion.”  The gelding is a stallion who has lost the privilege (think testicles) of being a stallion.  Think Sharia law.

Florida Statute 794.0235

Under the above statute a Judge may sentence the convicted sexual batterer to chemical castration.  For a defendant with a prior sexual battery conviction, upon conviction for a subsequent or new sexual battery, the court “shall sentence the defendant to be treated with medroxprogesterone acetate (MPA).”  This “treatment” is to be administered by the capable hands of the Florida Department of Corrections.  Amazingly, under Florida Statute 794.0235(5)(b), should a defendant,  court ordered to be “treated” with castration, who refuses such “treatment” would be guilty of a new second degree felony and could face up to fifteen more years in prison.  The prosecutor here is seeking life in prison.  A “lifer” facing 15 more years verses facing castration may make a decision where suddenly the prosecutor has no real leverage.  The marginal cost of the 15 years is not a deterrent to a defendant who knows he will not serve the time verses what he gets to keep. Continue reading →

Executed Over 18 Years Later

Juan Carlos Chavez was executed February 12, 2014, by the Florida Department of Corrections. He was convicted in the fall of 1998 for the kidnapping, capital sexual battery and first degree murder of nine year old, Samuel James “Jimmy” Ryce.   In the fall of 1995, Chavez, by his own admission and confession after a 55 hour long interrogation, abducted Jimmy Ryce.  He confessed to raping and murdering the child. He led investigators to where he had hidden the child’s beheaded and dismembered corpse hidden in three plastic containers of concrete.  Chavez confessed three months after the killing when the gun he used was located near the child’s backpack which was near Chavez’s trailer.  The murder of Jimmy Ryce was the basis for the “Jimmy Ryce Act.”

The Jimmy Ryce Involuntary Civil Commitment For Sexually Violent Predators’ Treatment And Care Act

 The Jimmy Ryce Act was passed by a unanimous vote in the Florida Legislature in 1998, becoming the law on January 1, 1999.  The law calls for inmates in the state prison system, prior to being released, that have any sex offense history, to be be reviewed and scrutinized for any risk of reoffending.  This review is completed by Corrections, Department of Children and Families (DCF) and prosecutors from the state attorneys office.  Should an inmate be deemed a risk to reoffend sexually, he or she is ordered into a involuntary civil commitment.  These inmates, though considered released after fulfilling their respective criminal sentence, are transported to Arcadia, Florida.  At Arcadia, the former Desoto Correctional Institution houses the involuntarily committed.  Although the facility is a condemned former prison, and the inmate is sent there through the actions of a prosecutor, it has been euphemistically renamed a “treatment center.”  Since the above act only deals  with released state prisoners, this act would not have helped a prosecutor send Chavez, since he was not just released from prison, to “treatment” in what is essentially a renamed prison. Continue reading →

Retired Jacksonville Corrections Officer Gregory Kazon Fields, according to the Florida Times Union, was recently arrested for lewd and lascivious battery against someone younger than sixteen.
Reportedly, Fields paid the young girl for a sex act and took her into a wooded area. Fields was a veteran corrections officer with almost thirty years of service before he retired in July of 2013. According to the Times Union a portion of his duties included being a jail spokesman and also being involved with a juvenile justice program and state attorney program taking “at risk” juveniles on jail tours.

Officer Kazon Was Previously Arrested for Sex Crimes in 1988
Officer Kazon, per records at the Duval County Clerk of Circuit Court, in case 1988-CF-008810, was arrested on two counts of Sexual Battery, both first degree felonies at the time in 1988. According to the Times Union, Kazon became a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officer in 1984, thus, four years before this felony arrest for sexual battery. These two felony sex charges were later dropped less than two months after Kazon was arrested. Although a fellow Sheriff’s Officer had to have decided earlier there was probable cause for the arrest of Kazon, the State Attorneys office later decided to “nolle prosequi” or drop the case. According to clerk records, there was also a search warrant issued. This means a judge had reviewed the facts as presented and determined there was enough indication of wrongdoing to justify a search warrant.

Convicted of Solicitation for Prostitution
Kazon, according to Duval County Clerk of Circuit Court records, was convicted,adjudicated guilty, of the misdemeanor offense of solicitation for prostitution in case 1984-MM-038801. According to clerk records, he was convicted of this charge in October 1984 the month before he started his thirty year career with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. It is not known if the Sheriff’s Office knew or cared about the solicitation arrest. Kazon was convicted of a second degree misdemeanor and could have been sentenced to sixty days in jail.

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Earlier this month, according to NEWS4JAX, a Jacksonville high school student was arrested and sent to the juvenile detention facility for stabbing a fellow student. This incident occurred at Wolfson High School after one student, the victim, reportedly had made threats to the suspect and followed thru on the threats the following day. The suspect, worried about the threats, took a knife on his person to school the following day. The suspect was arrested on a charge of Aggravated Battery With a Deadly Weapon. The victim went to the hospital with arm lacerations. The suspect is still being held in the the Juvenile Detention Facility.

Aggravated Battery With a Deadly Weapon in the Florida Criminal Justice System

Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon is a 2nd degree felony punishable, under Florida Statute 784.045 by up to fifteen years in the state prison system and a $10,000 fine. To prove a case of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

1. the defendant intentionally touched or struck the victim against the victim’s will, plus

the defendant intentionally caused bodily harm or injury to the victim. And,
2. In the above intentional act of battering the victim, the defendant either caused great

bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement to the victim, or, used a
deadly weapon.

Juveniles and a the Risk Assessment Instrument

Juvenile defendants appear before a Judge within 24 hours of arrest. The Judge’s primary function at that point is to determine if the child(and the juvenile is referred to as “child” not “defendant” by the court) is to be kept in secure detention at the juvenile facility or be released to some responsible adult. Adult defendants go before a Judge within 24 hours in order to have their bonds set at some monetary level or be denied bond if the court deems fit. Juvenile defendants appear before the court after folks from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, or “DJJ” have completed the child’s risk assessment instrument. This assessment assigns points to matters such as the nature of the crime, any violence, any past crimes, any probationary status and has the child come to court before voluntarily or did a “pick up order” have to be used to go get the child. The magic number for secure detention is 12 points in Florida as a Judge is required to hold the child in detention for 12 points or better on the scoresheet. The Risk Assessment Instrument in Juvenile Court covers numerically what most Judges consider in setting the bond on an adult defendant. There are no monetary bonds set on juvenile offenders. The child is either kept in detention or released to family or some responsible adult.

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Former Dallas Cowboys player Josh Brent was convicted earlier this week of intoxication manslaughter with the victim being one of his teammates, 25 year old Jerry Brown. Now, under Texas law, he faces up to twenty years in prison. The facts presented at trial stated that Brent left a club, flipped his Mercedes at 110 mph, killing Brown, and had a blood alcohol level of .189 which is more than twice the legal limit under Texas Law. According to Reuters, Brent had a previous DUI arrest in 2009 during his college football years at the University of Illinois. Brent also tested positive for drugs while out of jail on bond previous to his trial
DUI Manslaughter under Florida Law

DUI manslaughter in Florida is a second degree felony with a maximum punishment of 15 years. A defendant, with no prior criminal history whatsoever, still scores, under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, just over 12 years in the state prison system. Florida Law also mandates that the first four years served are served as a “minimum mandatory” which means the convicted driver would earn no gain time on the initial four years as those years would be done “day for day.” Typically, without the minimum mandatory, Florida inmates will do 85% of their sentence. A person in this position is immediately facing 12 years out of a maximum of 15 years. If the driver seriously injures another that is a 3rd degree Felony where the score is 51 months out of a possible 60 months.

To convict the State Attorney has to prove:

the driver was in actual physical control of the vehicle
the driver’s blood alcohol level was over .08 or, the driver was on drugs to the extent that her normal faculties were impaired and, by operating the vehicle while impaired, caused or contributed to the death of another
Additionally, if a death has resulted or is probable, these cases usually involve “blood draw” of the accused instead of the customary breath test performed at the jail. The investigating officer produces a blood draw kit and blood is drawn. This is usually done at the hospital but can be done at the crime scene by paramedics. Blood draw results take months. If the the results come back over a .08 the driver will be arrested at that time, 3-4 months later, on a warrant.

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Earlier this month, a Florida woman was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide months after she was involved in a fatal accident that took the life of another motorist. According to a report by FirstCoastNews.com, the woman was driving her car at 76 miles per hour in a 45 mile per hour zone when she ran a red light and hit a Volvo, containing the only victim.

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While the accident occurred last June, the woman was arrested only recently, when officers were more accurately able to determine the speed at which she was traveling. Witnesses also report that she was driving erratically and aggressively, weaving in and out of lanes, passing on the right, etc. She is currently being held on vehicular homicide charges, and bail is posted at $100,000.

Vehicular Homicide in the Florida Criminal Justice System

Vehicular Homicide is a serious crime in Florida. Like all other crimes, vehicular homicide has specific elements that must be met in order for a defendant to be successfully charged and convicted of the crime. In Florida, the elements of vehicular homicide are:

  • The killing of another human;
  • By the operation of a vehicle;
  • In a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.

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Earlier this month, First Coast News meteorologist, Tim Deegan, was stopped by police when he allegedly ran a stop sign. According to a report by the local NBC affiliate, upon stopping Deegan, the officer on the scene conducted a breath alcohol test at some point and discovered that Deegan was driving under the influence of alcohol.

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Last week, Deegan entered a “no contest” plea with the court. As a result, Deegan will not go to trail, and will be on probation for one year. In addition, he will have his driver’s license suspended for six months, will be required to complete 50 hours of community service, and will also be required to complete “DUI school.” In addition, Deegann must pay court costs of nearly $1,100.

“No Contest” pleas in Florida Criminal Courts

In the Florida criminal justice system, a no contest plea is not quite a guilty plea but has a similar effect. In essence, a defendant who enters a no contest plea is telling the court “while I am not admitting to committing the offense, I admit that the State has enough evidence to prove that I committed the offense.” The distinction, while slight, is important in a number of ways. To find out more on the distinctions between guilty and no contest pleas, contact an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.

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