FACES PRISON AND A LIFETIME OF SEX OFFENDER REGISTRATION

According to a recent article in the New York Times, former Democratic Congressman and New York City mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner has entered a guilty plea to a federal charge of obscenity.  Weiner entered his plea in federal court, pleading to a charge of “transferring obscene material to a minor.”  The victim in the case was a 15 yr. old girl in North Carolina. The charge Weiner admitted guilt on carries a 10 year maximum prison sentence although the prosecutor stated a sentence of 21 to 27 months would suffice.  Weiner is not slated for sentencing until September.  If he is to receive a prison sentence the Judge may remand him into custody at that time or let him remain free to get his affairs in order.  In most of the Circuit Courts of Florida, if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest, with no agreed to sentence or conditions, this is called a “straight up plea.” The Court may sentence the defendant to the maximum sentence allowed by law and the defendant cannot simply withdraw his or her plea because of a sudden case of buyer’s remorse.   Also in Florida, if the defendant has no prior felony convictions, the Court will order a Pre-Sentence Investigation, or “PSI’ which is compiled by the Florida Department of Corrections.  In Juvenile Court, the same type of document is provided to the Court, however, it is called a Pre-Disposition Report, or “PDR” which is prepared by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. In a violation of probation case, the probation officer compiles a similar report. The reports focus on the defendant’s upbringing, family situation, drug and alcohol abuse history, education, criminal history, the facts involved in the case at hand(which is usually just a reiteration of the police report), any military service and employment history. These types of reports are prepared to give the courts a background on the defendant and they usually contain a recommendation in the last paragraph as to what the preparer thinks is an appropriate sentence.  The Judge is not bound by these reports or recommendations.

FORFEITED PROPERTY AND FACES LARGE FINE

The terms of the plea agreement show Weiner agreeing to forfeit his I-Phone and being exposed to a monetary fine ranging from $35,000 to $350,000.  The I-Phone is listed by the  serial number and is being seized as it was apparently the communications  device Weiner used to commit the crime.  Seizure and forfeiture of property is very common in Florida criminal cases.  Many times, at the scene of a crime, law enforcement will take a suspect’s phone into evidence. The officer will ask for consent to look into the phone.  If the suspect withholds consent to search, the officer still takes the phone, puts it into evidence and seeks a warrant allowing the contents of the phone to be examined.  It is this writer’s experience, large amounts of cash and nice vehicles are also commonly seized and subject to a civil forfeiture if they can any way be linked to the commission of a felony.  Many firearm or gun crimes cases, for example, are reduced by the filing state attorney to lesser charges; however, any firearm involved in the crime and maybe any other firearms owned by the defendant are typically forfeited as part of the negotiations.  In some of the larger employee theft or embezzlement cases, whatever the defendant has in a 401k retirement account is commonly used in negotiations in a effort to make an up front paydown on the restitution owed. Continue reading

JACKSONVILLE SHERIFF’S OFFICE ANNOUNCES THE ARRESTS OF 21 MEN SOLICITING MINORS

Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Sheriff Mike Williams held a press conference on May 16, 2017 to announce the arrest of 21 males during an undercover sex sting.  Operation “Watchdog” ran from May 5 through May 8.  The males arrested ranged in age from 21 to 61.  The operation was run by a Joint Task Force including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Orange Park Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office.  These types of operations are commonly referred to as “To Catch a Predator,” based on the once popular television show.

The sting was run like many others.  Detectives pose on certain social media websites as under age males or females.  While on the websites conversations take place between the undercover detectives and the potential predator.  What will be clear in the conversation is the young age of the individual the undercovers are pretending to be.  In the most recent sting, the undercovers posed as 13 or 14 year old females or males.  In each of the 21 arrested individuals, some promise of sexual intercourse or sexual activity with a minor were promised before the suspects traveled to the target location.  Once the individuals arrived at the target location, they were taken into custody.  Although not detailed in the news reports, it is common for the undercovers to request that the suspects bring special items to the meeting place.  Specific alcohol, candy, food, or even sex props or toys are often thrown out as requests by the undercovers.  This is a great piece of evidence for the State of Florida.  When a suspect is specifically asked to bring a six pack of watermelon wine coolers to drink before sexual activity, and the suspect shows up with that specific request, it is hard for the suspect to explain.

A broad range of individuals were arrested as a result of the most recent operation.  Kyle Parmenter is a 24 year old teacher’s assistant from Palencia Elementary School.  His arrest on these charges certainly disturbed several parents of Palencia Elementary School as several were interviewed by local news outlets.  Many parents questioned the hiring process  that allowed an individual like Parmenter to work with children on a daily basis.  According to a Florida Times Union report, Matthew McCance of Jacksonville sent two nude photographs of a couple having sex to whom he believed was a 13 year old child.  Jerry Ruis is a 52 year old male who traveled all the way from Snellville, Georgia.  The troubling fact regarding Ruis, is that he is currently on Sex Offender Probation for molesting a child in the past.  Abdulrahem Alkaedei is a 25 year old male who is a student at the University of North Florida, who’s listed address is on campus living.  These operations clearly show that predators do not all fit the same mold or walks of the life.

The report also gives details regarding the difficult take down of Cody Thatcher, a 21 year old from the Arlington area.  Thatcher attempted to flea arrest and used his own motor vehicle to ram three separate detectives cars.  Thatcher was charged with three additional counts of Aggravated Battery against a Law Enforcement Officer, Fleeing or Attempting to Elude Law Enforcement, and Resisting an Officer with Violence. Charges such as these usually indicate a danger to the community in the minds of the judges setting bonds, and the bonds tend to run high even though these suspects as a group, usually have minimal criminal histories.   On the back end of these cases, if convicted, one faces prison time followed by a lifetime of registration as a sex offender.  Also, after incarceration, most courts will impose a period of sex offender probation, which in Florida, is the most restrictive probation there is.  Most state attorney offices assign only career or senior prosecutors to seek justice in sex cases, usually on behalf of a victim.  These sometimes called “traveller” cases never involve a victim, no child or adolescent exists and therefore, there’s no touching.

The Very Serious Charges that the 21 Face

All 21 of the individuals face similar charges.  The common charges are traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child, solicitation of a child via computer to engage in sexual contact, and unlawful use of a two way communication device.  The majority of these charges are found under Florida State Statute 847 titled Obscenity.

To prove the crime of traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child, the State of Florida will be required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person who knowingly used a computer online service, internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice, a child or another person believed by the person to be a child, to commit any illegal act described in Chapter 794, 800, 827 (lewd behavior, sexual battery, etc.), or to otherwise engage in any unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person believed by the person to be a child.  Anyone who violates this chapter will face a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, however if any of the individuals falsely represented their own age as a minor, the charge is enhanced to a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.

An important fact that must be proven in each of these cases is the age the undercovers pose as.  It must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt the age of the individual the suspect is speaking with.  The detectives will record the entire conversation whether it is typed, texted, emailed, or spoken.  A key piece of evidence will be the dialogue discussing the age of the child.  It has been this writer’s experience in the past that this “age” will be made abundantly clear.  Since the suspect has no idea they are actually speaking with an undercover, they often times speak openly and in detail about the individuals age.

To prove the crime of Traveling to Meet a Minor, the State of Florida must show that a person traveled any distance either within this state, to this state, or from this state by any means, who attempts to do so, or who causes another to do so or to attempt to do so for the purpose of engaging in any illegal act described in chapter 794, chapter 800, or chapter 827, or to otherwise engage in other unlawful sexual conduct with a child or with another person believed by the person to be a child after using a computer online service, Internet service, local bulletin board service, or any other device capable of electronic data storage or transmission to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice or attempt to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child or another person believed by the person to be a child, to engage in any illegal act described in chapter 794, chapter 800, or chapter 827, or to otherwise engage in other unlawful sexual conduct with a child.  Traveling to Meet a Minor is very similar to the Utilizing a Computer Device to Solicit a Minor, it simply adds in the fact that an individual traveled somewhere to do so.  It is fairly simple for the State to prove the element of travel.  For starters clearly the suspect is not in the room with undercovers.  Secondly, the take down team can easily testify to how the suspect arrived at the target location.  One big difference though is regardless of the age the suspect states, this charge is a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in the Florida State Prison.

The unlawful use of a two way communication device is commonly used when charging narcotics or drug dealers.  However when one reads Florida State Statute 934.215 the charge clearly fits right into these sting operations.  The Statute reads, any person who uses a two-way communication device, including, but not limited to, a portable two-way wireless communications device, to facilitate or further the commission of any felony offense commits a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to five years in the Florida State Prison.  Here the State of the Florida will first prove in court that the suspect committed a felony under Florida law.  Once that has been established the State of Florida will easily show that the suspect used their cell phone to commit the felony.

What do you do if you or a Loved One are Facing Similar Charges

Almost all Northeast Florida criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations or jail visits. If you or a loved one are facing Charges of Using a Computer to Entice a Child, Traveling to Meet a Minor, or any other sexually motivated charge such as Sexual Battery, Lewd or Lascivious Behavior/Act or are facing Violations after the fact such as Failure to Register, Failure to Comply with Sex Offender Registration Requirements or Violations of Probation, don’t hesitate to contact an  experienced criminal defense attorney. The Forbess Law Firm, 904-634-0900, offers free, no obligation appointments and jail visits.  Further if you or a loved one have a pending warrant in Duval, Clay, Nassau, St. Johns, Baker, or Putnam County an experienced lawyer can help negotiate your surrender to law enforcement and protect your constitutional rights at the time of arrest and subsequent interview attempts by  law enforcement officials.

 

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Local Mother Arrested for Stealing at Publix While Leaving Young Son in the Car

A recent News4Jax report gives details into the arrest of Lindsay Pence for Petit Theft and Child Neglect.  St. Johns County Deputies were first dispatched to a Publix parking lot based on a 911 call for an unattended boy in a car.  A review of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office report gives greater details into the criminal episode.

The Deputies located Pence’s six year old son inside of a honda civic, with the vehicle running, and all of the doors unlocked.  Pence exited the store ad came in contact with Deputies at her car.  Pence stated that the child had been crying and “she did not want to deal with the issue inside of the store.”  It is common during child neglect investigations for law enforcement to establish a time line.  How long a child is left unattended is an important fact for the future prosecution cases similar to Mrs. Pence.  To establish how long Mrs. Pence left her six year old son unattended the Deputies simply went inside of Publix to review the security camera footage.

A review of the cameras revealed that Mrs. Pence was inside of Publix for close to thirty minutes.  For thirty minutes, a six year old sat in a motor vehicle alone, with the doors unlocked and the motor running.  At any moment the vehicle could have been stolen, the young child kidnapped, or worse.  It was concerning enough for a passerby, likely another Publix shopper, to alert Law Enforcement to the situation.  Unfortunately for Mrs. Pence, the camera footage also revealed evidence of an additional crime.

While inside of the store Mrs. Pence also committed the crime of Petit Theft, commonly referred to as stealing.  The camera footage showed that Mrs. Pence took out a Publix shopping bag she had  in her possession and placed several items inside of the bag while walking around the store.  Pence then exited the store, past all points of sale without paying for the items.  The total amount of stolen items totaled $33.88.  The items listed as stolen in the Police Report are certainly an unusual combination.  Deodorant, watermelon chunks, salmon sushi, and Kingsford charcoal are all listed as items recovered from Pence.

It is not clear whether Publix would have ever discovered that Pence had stolen from their store if the Deputies had not reviewed the security footage to gather evidence during the child neglect investigation.

The Charges Pence Faces

Pence was arrested for Child Neglect and Petit Theft.  The State Attorney’s Office added an additional count of “Unattended Child in a Motor Vehicle in Excess of Fifteen Minutes.”

Florida State Statute Chapter 827 deals with the abuse of children.  Included in this chapter are the definitions of crimes such as Aggravated Child Abuse, Child Abuse, and Child Neglect.  Neglect of a child is defined as a caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or a caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.

To prove the neglect charge clearly the State of Florida will rely on the 911 caller to describe what the caller saw, the condition of the child, that no one was around, and that it was alarming enough to call 911.  The Deputies would next testify to the time the child was left alone based on the security footage. The Child Neglect charge Pence faces is a third degree felony, punishable by up to five years in the Florida State Prison. Continue reading

Two Shoplifters Arrested After Getaway Car Flips

A News4Jax story details the arrests of Khadrede Brown and Cheneta Duffy on March 25, 2017.  Brown, Duffy, and third suspect yet to be identified, entered into a Victoria’s Secret store inside of the Orange Park Mall.  Once inside, according to reports, Brown distracted an employee while Duffy and the other woman began taking items off of hangers and placing the items inside of their purses.  The merchandise is estimated to be valued at over $700.00.  Police were notified of the theft and upon arrival saw Duffy and the third suspect inside of a vehicle that quickly sped away, running a stop sign in an effort to flee from police.  The car attempted to negotiate a sharp turn and overturned onto its roof close to Wells Road.  Duffy was taken into custody however the third individual fled on foot and is still at large at this time.  Brown was taken into custody after a security guard located Brown’s purse full of stolen Victoria’s Secret merchandise.  A further search of the purse revealed marijuana and a marijuana grinder.  The stolen merchandise was returned to Victoria’s Secret.Brown was charged with retail theft of $300 or more coordinating with others (third degree felony), possession of less than twenty grams of cannabis (first degree misdemeanor), use or possession of drug paraphernalia (first degree misdemeanor) and possession of anti-shoplifting device countermeasure (third degree felony).

Duffy was charged with retail theft of $300 or more coordinating with others (third degree felony), resisting or obstructing an officer without violence (first degree misdemeanor), possession of an anti-shoplifting device countermeasure (third degree felony).  A review of Duffy’s name shows she is also currently out on bond in two separate Duval County cases, one for driving while license suspended or revoked as a habitual traffic offender (third degree felony) and the second case for grand theft (third degree felony) and resisting while committing theft, transit fare evasion, or trespass (first degree misdemeanor).  A review of Duffy’s arrest report on the Duval Grand Theft case shows that she is charged with entering a Belk’s Department store and placing close to $500.00 worth of merchandise into her handbag and attempting to leave the store without paying.  In the Duval case, Duffy is also alleged to have committed the crime with an accomplice.

Analysis of the Charges

The Clay County cases utilize a Florida Statute designed to crack down on groups of people committing crimes together.  The State of Florida will likely file a simple grand theft count instead of the retail theft charge as it is easier for the State to prove the elements of the crime.  Theft crimes are defined in Florida Law under Chapter 812 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 of a right to the property or a benefit from the property.   The seriousness of the offense is determined by the amount in dollars of what is alledged to have been stolen.  If the amount is under $100 the charge is petit theft, a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to sixty days in the county jail.  If the amount is between $100 and $300 the charge is also a petit theft, but tunes into a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail.  If the amount is above $300 the charge is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.  It is quick to see how stealing a larger amount can end in a much more severe punishment. What is also important to notice regarding the way the law is written is even those who place items in their purses who never leave the store can still be charged with theft.  The State can rely on the language of “temporarily depriving” to still convict those caught in the act of stealing.  Commonly those charged with theft crimes feel that if they have not completed the crime they shouldn’t be guilty of theft, however the Florida law clearly contradicts that thought process. Continue reading

JSO RELEASES DETAILS OF MONTH LONG DRUG OPERATION

A recent News4Jax report gives details into a four month operation in the Oceanway area of Jacksonville’s Northside.  The operation targeted narcotics violations ranging from simple misdemeanors up through first degree felony drug trafficking charges.  The operation was nicknamed “Lockdown in O-Town.”  Sheriff Williams stated the operation was a result of several complaints from residents of drug activity in the Northside area of town.

Williams stated that the investigations focused JSO undercovers on four areas in which narcotics detectives even spent nights sleeping in hotels on Dunn Avenue to build relationships with known drug dealers in the neighborhood.  The narcotics purchased or seized by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office included methamphetamine, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, several different forms of prescriptions pills, and marijuana.  Four structures were condemned by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office DART team.  One structure was a methamphetamine laboratory.  Motor Vehicles and other property were seized and will be handled by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office forfeiture unit.  Sheriff Williams stated in what must clearly be taken out of context that all of these individuals were predators taking advantage of addiction and that these people were arrested for dealing. The press release contained several mugshots of those arrested as well as their charges.  Several people were not arrested for dealing, in fact several were arrested for simple possession, one man even for Resisting Arrest Without Violence, a first degree misdemeanor.  Perhaps the individual resisting arrest was a drug dealer, perhaps not, however the Sheriff certainly labeled the entire operation as a bunch of dealers.  The point of the press conference is certainly showing the public that we, the police, took these 60 drug dealers of the street, however a review of the cases sheds different light on what actually happened.

REVIEW OF SOME OF THE CASES

Since Florida has a very broad and open book policy on Public Records any citizen can access information regarding what actually happened in these cases, at least from reports generated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

One man arrested, Clifford Williams, was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.  He was arrested back on December 6, 2016.  In first appearance court he plead no contest, and was released based on time he had already served and assessed court fines.  Clearly, this is not an individual targeted in this large scale multi month operation; however, in the ever apparent numbers game, Mr. Williams name and mugshot have been added to the press release.

Amber Lambert was arrested on December 6, 2016 for four counts of possession of a controlled substance (third degree felony) and one count of possession of paraphernalia (first degree misdemeanor).  A review of her arrest report shows Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office executed a search warrant and located Lambert and a co-defendant in a room along with Heroin, Fentynol, Cocaine, Crystal Meth (Methamphetamine), and drug paraphernalia.  Lambert and the co-defendant denied any knowledge of the narcotics found.  Lambert’s case was dropped by the State Attorney’s Office on December 28, 2016.  The likely legal issue in Lambert’s case is how could the State of Florida prove Lambert’s knowledge of the illegal narcotics located by the Sheriff’s Office.  Based on the arrest report, JSO would not be able to prove possession of any of the narcotics in regards to Lambert.  The co-defendant’s case remains open at this time.  The difference in the co-defendant’s case may be the basis for the search warrant.  Often times narcotics detectives purchase drugs from a house over a period of time.  From there they will apply for a search warrant to raid the home of the drug dealer.  If narcotics detectives have previously purchased drugs from an individual it can be used as knowledge of the presence of illegal drugs at the time the search warrant is issued.  The co-defendant’s arrest report is not currently available, so it is unclear what theory the State of Florida is proceeding under at this time. Continue reading

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