Articles Posted in Sex Crimes

JACKSONVILLE SHERIFF’S OFFICE ARRESTS 17 MEN FOR ATTEMPTING TO HAVE SEX WITH MINORS

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams held a press conference on September 4, 2018, to discuss the arrest of 17 men after running an online sting operation in which undercover detectives posed as minor children.  Sheriff Williams stated the operation was named “DUVAL,” an acronym for Disrupting Underage Virtual Abuse Locally.  The operation involved over a dozen local and federal law enforcement agencies. This is according to a news report.

As often happens in sting operations like “DUVAL,” a wide spectrum of individuals were arrested.  The men’s ages range from 19 to 67, and some lived locally in Jacksonville, while some traveled from out of State.  Sheriff Williams stated that one of the individuals charged is a convicted sexual offender.  The Sheriff also discussed certain suspects by name and stated “there may not be any fixing these people.”  Edward Stanley who is 60 years old and is stated to currently work for the Department of Defense in North Carolina as a victim advocate was one of the individuals arrested for traveling to meet a 14 year old girl for sex.  These cases are commonly referred to as “Travelers,” in the court system.

These sting operations typically include an overwhelming amount of evidence against the accused.  The conversation itself is normally very straight forward in which the undercover agents will clearly state that they are underage.  In this sting, the undercovers posed as 13-14 year old boys or girls.  The undercovers will log into dating websites such as OkCupid and begin conversations with the potential suspects online.  The online conversation itself will be evidence used against the accused.  Details such as what will happen when the meeting will occur, what to bring, and where to meet will all be discussed.  The accused next will arrive at a pre-determined meeting but will not meet with a minor, but however will be taken into custody by a takedown team.  Any items previously requested by the undercover that the accused brought to the pre-arranged meet will also be submitted into evidence.  These items will be used in a trial to show that not only did the accused agree to meet for sex, but also brought the requested items to show there is not mistake in the accused’s mind as to the reason for the meet.

Other things that will be considered by a jury is the distance a person travels to meet a minor.  Mohammed Malek traveled from Tallahassee, Florida.  Malek’s defense will have to explain why Malek happened to travel all the way from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and arrived at the exact location given by the undercover.  Other charges may arise out of the online conversation itself as often times the individuals seeking sex with a minor send nude photographs of themselves to the undercover agents.

Also what is important to note is that the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office waits until the operation is ended to post any information regarding the arrests as to hopefully not tip off any future suspects about the sting.  The individuals charged will not even appear in the Jail Screen until after the press conference. Continue reading

Local Bible School Teacher Arrested

Robert Russell Browning, according to a news report, was arrested by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office on a warrant on August 4, 2018.  Browning was arrested for Lewd or Lascivious Battery (second degree felony), Lewd or Lascivious Molestation- Victim 12 years but less than 16, Defendant 18 or older (second degree felony), and Transmission of Material Harmful to a Minor to a Minor by Electric Device or Equipment (third degree felony).  Browning was employed at the Cedar Creek Christian School as a Bible School Teacher.  Some of the alleged events occurred on school grounds.  Cedar Creek has terminated Browning’s employment after the arrest.  The warrant had bonds set at $100,003.00, $100,003.00, and $50,003.00.

The arrest warrant affidavit and News4Jax article give details into the investigation as well as what lead to the eventual arrest of Browning.  The victim in the case is older than 12 years and younger than 16 years of age.  It is not known at this time if the victim attended the school or just the church.  The victim’s father discovered the inappropriate relationship when he went through his daughter’s phone.  Contained in text messages were nude photos and inappropriate text messages between the victim and Browning.  The father immediately contacted the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to investigate.

The arrest affidavit gives details into what the victim described happened during the inappropriate relationship.  The victim stated that she and Browning had exchanged nude photographs to each other.  The two also “facetimed,” one another in the nude using the cell phones.  A forensic download was conducted of the victim’s phone to preserve evidence.  Further the phone number used by Browning was confirmed to belong to Browning.  The victim also was able to identify Browning’s private parts in one of the text messaged pictures.

Further into the interview with the victim it was discovered that the relationship with Browning was more than just text messages and video phone calls.  The victim stated that while on the premises of the Church, the victim had performed consensual oral sex on Browning.  While the victim was performing, Browning rubbed the private parts of the victim.  The download of the victim’s phone also contained text conversations between the victim and Browning discussing the two engaging in oral sex.

The State of Florida currently has three charges to prove against Browning.  There is always the possibility that the State of Florida may add additional charges if more evidence is discovered.   The first count, Lewd and Lascivious Battery is defined in Florida State Statute 800.04(4)(b).  That statute states a person commits lewd or lascivious battery by:

  1. Engaging in sexual activity with a person 12 years of age or older but less than 16 years of age; or
  2. Encouraging, forcing, or enticing any person less than 16 years of age to engage in sadomasochistic abuse, sexual bestiality, prostitution, or any other act involving sexual activity.

Sexual activity is defined  as the oral, anal, or vaginal penetration by, or union with, the sexual organ of another or the anal or vaginal penetration of another by any other object; however, sexual activity does not include an act done for a bona fide medical purpose.

The State will rely on the victim’s statements as well as the text message conversations between the victim and Browning to prove element one.  Only one element is required to be proven, and the State of Florida likely will be able to show that the victim and Browning likely did engage in Sexual Activity together when the victim performed the oral sex act on Browning.  Also what is important to note, consent of the victim does not matter in regards to this Statute.  The fact that the victim consented to performing a sex act on Browning is not a defense.  This is based on the age of the victim.  In fact the statute even lists consent as a “Prohibited Defense.” (Fla State Statute 800.04(1)(2).

In count two, Lewd or Lascivious Molestation- Victim 12 years but less than 16, Defendant 18 or older the State of Florida will have to prove Florida State Statute 800.04(5)(c)2.  This statute states: An offender 18 years of age or older who commits lewd or lascivious molestation against a victim less than 12 years or age or older but less than 16 years of age.   Here the State of Florida will easily be able to establish the ages of both the victim and Browning.  Browning’s arrest report lists his age at 59.  This charge deals with Browning’s touching of the victim.  Based on the evidence released thus far, the victim’s word is what the State of Florida will rely on.  Clearly the State has text messages to back up other parts of the case, however the Affidavit does not detail whether the text messages obtained discussed Browning touching the victim. Continue reading

SMART PHONES ARE JUST SMALL COMPUTERS, SUBJECT TO IMPULSIVE ACTIONS

Cell phones today serve many utilitarian functions besides being a communications device.  One can summon a ride, execute stock trades, research potential vendors, get insurance coverage, write an obituary, buy flight tickets or share photos with friends and family and a myriad of other tasks.  As this technology has become commonplace and accessible even to children, a new world of internet crimes also has arisen. Historically, this is nothing new.  New technology has brought new crimes before.  In the past, we had train robberies occur once the rails went across America. Likewise, we never had obscene phone calls until we had phones.  In this blog, this writer will discuss in general terms, based upon cases our office has actually defended, what types of cell phone behavior, under Florida law, gets people arrested.

SENDING A TEXT TO SOMEONE THREATENING TO KILL THEM

This is usually an highly impulsive act committed by a person who is almost always highly emotional and maybe drunk or stoned.  This falls under Florida Statute 836.10, is a second degree felony and scores prison under the Florida criminal scoresheet regarding punishment.  Prison time, for someone with no record, has been 1-2 years.  Also, a charge of this nature is like batting practice to a prosecutor.  Usually there is a series of texts to the same victim and since texts never disappear, the screen shots of the texts are simply provided to the defense attorney in discovery.  It is this writer’s experience that the cell phone being constantly on one’s person takes away the timeframe where the soon to be accused would have to get in front of a desktop computer.  Perhaps a slight delay could give a person time to calm down.  These cases also usually involve a very scared victim coming into court and stating their fears on the record at a sentencing hearing.

IF ON PROBATION, DON’T POST GUN AND WEED PICTURES OR HOMEMADE GUN TOTING RAP VIDEOS

This type of violation of probation is almost comical.  If one is on felony probation in Florida, they are not supposed to be around guns, dope or anyone committing crimes.  The cases this writer has seen of this nature are usually somebody getting even with the probationer.  More than one ex-girlfriend has reported her ex-boyfriend to his probation officer concerning acts which could violate him.  The defense will try to argue that the pics or videos occurred before the defendant went on probation.  The state attorney will bring the ex-girlfriend in to testify that the recording took place while the fellow was on probation.  A violation of probation does not mean the state attorney has to prove the violation beyond a reasonable doubt.  All that is needed is that the probationer willfully and substantially violated probation, and is decided by the Judge not a jury.

EXTORTION

Many couples, as part of their dating relationships, send pictures of themselves to their significant other.  Pictures can be transmitted within seconds but the repercussions of a picture or video containing nudity can last a lifetime.  Usually the unsuspecting person sending a picture of themselves has not thought it through that this image never goes away and is subject to being posted worldwide by the other person. Sometimes the person with pictures of the other will try to apply leverage for a continued relationship, money or special purchases, or simply to disgrace the other party. Very simply, one person demands something out of the other person, or else the pictures and videos are going internet wide.  These demands are usually communicated by text messaging to the victim and the state attorney has a very easy case to present.  Extortion under Florida law is a second degree felony and can carry up to a 15 year sentence. Continue reading

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

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

Students Arrested Were 17, 18 and 19 Years of Age, Dodged a Sex Crime

According to a report, three male students at Terry Parker High School in Jacksonville were arrested in April for having sex with a female student on school grounds.  The four students met up at a athletic field house on the high school campus.  One of the male students filmed portions of the sexual activity that occurred.  It appears the allegations came forth from the victim when she was being questioned about being late for class or asking for a “late” pass. Two of the young men went to the police station and were arrested.  Another young man was arrested days later.  They were all charged with Lewd or Lascivious Battery and also Lewd Battery with enticement of a person less than 16 years old to engage in any type of sexual activity.  A conviction of either charge would have devastated these young men with incarceration and the lifelong requirement of sex offender registration.  For several reasons, the State Attorney’s  office exercised discretion and reduced these charges to misdemeanors with probationary sentences.

Victim Originally Stated She Was Forced Into Sex Only to Admit Later it Was Consensual

As is common in many sex cases a person who the arresting officers and detectives determine to be a victim later recants his or her story.  In the above case, the female victim later stated the sex was consensual.  One of the young men had recorded the acts on his cell phone. That defendant also had an additional felony charge of “making/printing or publishing computer pornography” which under Florida Law is a third degree felony.  The young girl in this case was not of age to give or not give consent under Florida law; however, a supervisory prosecutor, after viewing the video contained on one defendant’s cellphone, determined that the young girl was not being forced into any participation by the three young men.  As the case unfolded, the video, the recording of which was an felony charge, seems to have helped all of the young men with the prosecutor’s decision to not bring the felony sex charges.

Sex Charges Can Surface Years Later

Under Florida law a person can be arrested for allegations of sexual misconduct years, even decades after the alledged behavior.  Most readers should be familiar with the multiple allegations against the popular comedian Bill Cosby.  Several women have brought up incidents from years past and at least once case is reportedly going to trial.  It is commonplace in Florida for a person with no criminal history to be arrested for sex crimes which supposedly occurred fifteen or twenty years prior.  The worst situation is Capital Sexual Battery, meaning, at the time of the incident, the victim was less than 12 years of age with the accused being over 18 years of age.  A person arrested on this charge is not entitled to a bond under Florida Law and is facing mandatory life imprisonment if convicted.  This writer has seen victims come forward with very old  allegations numerous times.  The motivation of the victim coming forward years later varies. It can be for “closure” as directed by their counselor or psychologist, the taking away of a 13 year old’s cell phone, refusing to let a rebellious 14 yr. old date the 16 yr. old who has his license and a car, the backing out of a promise to buy a child a car or truck when they turn 16, or mom is finally divorcing the stepdad.  Many times, other family members are aware of the allegations and families will try to just handle the matter internally without it getting out to law enforcement. Continue reading

Florida Legislators  Vote 122-5 To Repeal Law Passed In  1868

Florida lawmakers have apparently taken a small step to enter the modern day world by sending a bill to Governor Rick Scott.  The bill would eliminate Florida Statutes 798.01 and 798.02 which have been in effect since 1868, or essentially 148 years.  The two laws had their origins shortly after the end of the Civil War and the prevention of race mixing was probably a large part of the legislative intent.  Until Governor Scott signs the bill repealing the draconian law, under S798.01, it remains a second degree misdemeanor in Florida to “live in an open state of adultery” and both parties would be subject to a maximum of 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500. Got the wayward married folks covered there.  Under S798.02 non-married and married florida residents who have sex, or as described by the statute, “if any man and woman, not being married to each other, lewdly and lasciviously associate and cohabit together, or if any man or woman, married or unmarried, engages in open and gross lewdness and lascivious behavior, they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.”  One would think these laws would be rarely enforced but according to an article in Police State USA, between 2007 and 2011, nearly 700 Florida residents were charged with misdemeanors for living together.  Additionally, these statutes don’t punish same sex couples for living together.  If  almost 700 Florida residents were in fact charged with crimes under these two statutes between 2007 to 2011, when that number is compared to the hundreds of thousands of Floridians living together as unmarried couples, the arrest and any prosecution is extremely rare. Any arrest and prosecution would also have to be very arbitrary.  This writer has handled thousands of criminal cases and works in about eight different counties without ever seeing anyone charged with violating these two laws.  What this writer does find noteworthy is the five elected lawmakers casting dissenting votes about overturning a seldom enforced law, regulating sex between consenting adults, from 1868, still consider this law necessary.  Can’t be too careful sometimes.

Regulation of Marriage

The second degree misdemeanors mentioned in the above paragraph are part of a regulatory attempt by government despite containing references to sexual activity that were incorporated as elements of the crime.  In our county alone, law enforcement’s number one or two arrests  by pure numbers on a daily basis (Duval County runs 35-40%) is for folks driving without a license.  The above law in the first paragraph is akin to having sex without being in a government licensed marriage, ie, an unlicensed marriage.  Locally our courthouse and the State of Florida just recently decided if gay couples could even be granted a marriage license.  The State of Florida now grants same sex couples the right to apply for and receive a marriage license, the right to marry and the right to divorce.  Our Duval County Courthouse had performed marriages for years up until the law changed granting gay couples marriage licenses.  Once the law changed and gays could marry, our Clerk of Court, Ronnie Fussell, decided that his courthouse and his court personnel would perform no weddings going forward. That was the only way he could avoid his people performing the ceremony for a gay couple.  The move was very coincidental with Mr. Fussell  simply stating it was a shortage of resources issue causing him to cease marriage operations 100% across the board, straight and gay alike.  Certain Judges and lawyers do, however,  perform marriages in the courthouse without the assistance of the clerk’s office. Continue reading

Reports say beat girlfriend’s 3 year old with a belt

A registered sex offender was recently arrested and booked into the Duval County Pretrial Detention Facility on a first degree felony charge of aggravated child abuse.  The allegations are that the defendant beat the three year old boy with a belt because the child kept falling asleep in the bathtub.  A first degree felony, under Florida law, carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.  The defendant was released from the Florida Department of Corrections in June of 2013.  Records show that he went to prison twice on a 2007 case for lewd battery, victim between 12 to 15 years.  He originally served 15 months, was released on probation, violated probation and was subsequently sentenced to what was a total of 6 years.  He left prison as a designated sexual offender subject to lifetime registration. His residence will always be available by checking online with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, FDLE for short.  If this defendant pleas or is convicted here, he will “score” prison under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code.  The state attorney assigned to the case, in addition to the offender’s  defense attorney, will quickly be able to calculate his minimum prison sentence exposure. Unless there are statutory departure qualifiers here, the judge assigned to this case, must give what is called a “guideline sentence” as a minimum.   Factored into his score will be his criminal record to date since Florida law uses the cumulative history of an individual much like a potential lendor views a loan applicant’s history of payments or non payments which helps formulate a credit score. As people with a checkered credit history pay more to borrow money, offenders with serious criminal histories pay more in terms of incarceration for their instant offenses.  The present offense will also be scored and that score may include extra points for the level of injuries to the 3 yr. old.

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Jacksonville Beach photographer, already in jail, receives additional charges

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

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