Articles Posted in Criminal Topics in the News

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

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

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

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

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“Car Hopping” Becomes More Prevalent in Early Summer

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

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Arrested in Volusia County

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

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

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

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

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

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The Florida Contraband Forfeiture Act

Florida Law, under Statutes 932.701 to 932.706, allows law enforcement to seize the property of individuals.  The property may be classified as “contraband” and may be illegal on its face.  The property may be considered to be an instrumentality of the criminal offense such as a car used to drive to  drug transactions or a yacht used to haul the drugs in from offshore.  A four wheeler used to go out into the woods and check on a marijuana grow would be in this category as would any tractors used to keep up with the grow property.  The laws under this statute also state that an individual may forfeit any property that are the proceeds of criminal activity.  The auction in Jacksonville, Florida, scheduled for May 15, has vehicles, watches, gold jewelry and fancy automotive rims.  The person forfeiting the property may contest the seizure in a civil proceeding which pits the property owner against the local police department’s forfeiture division accompanied by an attorney from the State Attorneys Office.  All that is needed to be shown by the seizing authority is probable cause that the property is either contraband, an instrumentality of a crime, or the byproduct or fruits of a crime.

“Most of the Items This Round Are From Narcotic Seizures”

Those are the words of JSO Lt. Ray Beltz as quoted by News4Jax.com.  What is not hitting this governmental auction block is any cash or currency which is usually the first item seized by drug unit officers. Additionally, the authorities typically only seize vehicles that have clear titles, ie, the vehicle is free and clear, no payments to worry about.  Narcotic officers will often run “reverse stings” where the officers pose as drug sellers, actually  flashing huge amounts of drugs (seized in prior cases and signed out of property rooms for particular stings) luring a drug buyer to come forward with a huge amount of soon to be seized cash.  The cash amounts seized in this fashion are always a prearranged goal second to the arrest and conviction of the drug traffficker.  Subsequently, there is no need for a time consuming auction.  No vehicle storage or exchange of titles getting in the way.  The motto “Cash is King” works for law enforcement also.  A person forfeiting property or having property seized does not actually have to ever end up being a defendant.  Aside from prearranged drug transactions, officers will often bring a narcotics dog to a traffic stop where a person has plenty of cash on hand, or cash found in what officers call a “drug roll” or “drug folds.”  The dog will usually alert to traces of illegal drugs on the currency and it will be seized. Continue reading

Los Angeles Clippers Owner Says of Magic Johnson, “He Has the Aids”

In a television interview this week on CNN, host Anderson Cooper was interviewing the recently embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling, regarding his potential loss of his team, his lifetime ban from the NBA and his thoughts and feelings on retired NBA great, Magic Johnson.  Johnson is widely known for announcing that he had HIV on November 7, 1991.  The virus was discovered during a team physical during the 1991-1992 season.   Johnson retired after the announcement, came back later for a handful of games, then fully retired.  He has since become enormously successful in business and philanthropic efforts.  CNN’s Cooper, while conducting the interview of Sterling, interjected and corrected Sterling that Johnson did not have aids or full blown aids, but has HIV instead.

In Florida You Must Tell Potential Sex Partner of HIV Diagnosis

Florida Statute 384.24 reads:  “It is unlawful for any person who has human immunodeficiency virus infection, when such person knows he or she is infected with this disease and when such person has been informed that he or she may communicate this disease to another person through sexual intercourse, to have sexual intercourse with any other person, unless such other person has been informed of the presence of the sexually transmissible disease and has consented to the sexual intercourse.”  Violation of this statute is a third degree felony under Florida law carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison.  Defendants who have repeatedly violated this statute can be charged with a first degree felony and face up to thirty years imprisonment.  The sex partner of the infected defendant does not have to show any diagnosis of the virus.  The defendant in these cases will usually raise an affirmative defense that the victim knew of the condition and consented to sex anyway.  Many cases of this sort involve married couples with one partner not knowing of the other’s condition until many years of marriage. The outcome is that one partner goes to prison, and judges typically sentence toward the maximum on these cases, and the other partner may or may not have HIV as their live goes forward. Continue reading

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

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

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