Tampa DUI defense lawyerWe have previously blogged about the now infamous DUI set-up during a civil trial involving two Tampa Bay area DJ s.  We then blogged about the possible punishment and the aftermath.  Now there is word coming down that the Florida Bar has recommended permanent disbarment for several of the involved.  Is this an unfair punishment or is this justice?  The Supreme Court may have the final word…

Pinellas County senior judge W. Douglas Baird will have some tough decisions in the next few months.  The Florida Bar has asked the judge to disbar three of the lawyers involved in the high profile defamation lawsuit in 2013.

Florida Bar attorneys made a recommendation for Stephen Diaco a partner in a Tampa Bay law firm, to be permanently disbarred for his role in a rival lawyer’s DUI arrest in 2013.  Stephen Diaco’s actions were called “malicious and [done] for personal gain”.  The disciplinary committee went on to mention how his set up arrest and subsequent possible discovery violations disrupted a defamation trial and “tarnished the reputation of the legal profession and the Tampa Police Department”.

Tampa criminal defense attorney

Tampa Bay criminal defense

 

Stephen’s fellow collaborators were not off the hook.  Based on their lesser actions, the State Bar recommended that both Robert Adams and Adam Filthaut be disbarred for five years (meaning they would be unable to practice law for at least five years, must alert their clients and shut down their firm/make arrangements for an orderly transition).  After this five year “break”, Robert and Adam would be able to reapply to the Florida Bar.  They most likely would have to retake the Florida Bar exam, go through the admission process and have their character questioned.  Additionally, they will forever have an ethics “black mark” next to their name.

Just last month, the Honorable Douglas Baird found all three of the attorneys guilty of unethical actions based on their conduct.  To recap, this was the opposing lawyer (the former 93.3 DJ MJ’s attorney) who was seen drinking at a bar during trial by Diaco’s secretary.  She quickly called him and his colleagues.  They instructed her to keep the attorney there and to keep him drinking.  The secretary kept flirting with the attorney, buying him drinks and lying about where she worked.  Meanwhile, Diaco and the gang were contacting a Tampa police department officer (now fired) who happened to be their friend.

When the time was right, the plan was put into action.  The secretary insisted that the rival attorney move her car, despite him telling her no several times, he eventually relented and was instantly pulled over by the same police officer.  He was arrested for driving under the influence and all his legal briefs and trial preparation  was left in the secretary’s car overnight.

Judge Baird mostly blamed Stephen Diaco for being the ringleader, finding him guilty of twice the violations as either Robert or Adam.  Among the most egregious violations?  Lying to a judge under oath about not knowing who his cellphone provider was!

Diaco’s lawyers defended their client, asking the judge not to destroy his career.  They mentioned his charitable works and his remorse.

Meanwhile, the other attorneys were still begging for a 91 day suspension- a request that has previously been rejected by a judge.  Continue reading

Pinellas sex crimes defense

A local man was arrested for an attempted sex assault and kidnapping of a realtor.  The attack caused plenty of fright and had real estate agents on edge until the suspect was captured…

63-year-old Bruce Kotter was arrested and charged with kidnapping and attempted sexual battery of a realtor that took place Monday afternoon.

Post lunch Monday, deputies responded to an attempted sexual battery of the 69-year-old realtor near Bradenton in Manatee County.

During the showing, deputies claim that Bruce went into a bathroom of the house and flushed the toilet.  He then called out to the realtor and told her that the toilet was leaking.

When the realtor went to check on the bathroom, the suspect tried to force himself on her.  He fled the scene when she told him that the homeowner was on his way and would be there any minute.

Detectives put out an A.P.B.  describing the suspect as a white male, alias of Jim. He was described as middle aged, approximately 6’0”, chunky, bald or balding hair, last seen wearing camo shorts, a grey polo shirt with high socks and white sneakers.

The shook up’ed victim said the suspect reeked of cigarette smoke. He was driving a newer model full size extended cab pick-up truck, either black or navy blue in color.  The truck proved to be his undoing.

Sarasota police officers located his Dark Blue Ford 150 in nearby Sarasota.   It matched the description of the suspect vehicle and Bruce Kotter was found inside a home at the address and was immediately arrested.

Based on more information that came in, the detectives believed the suspect had intentions of doing the same to another realtor about an hour after the first incident.

Connecting the cases, Sheriff Deputies were contacted by another female realtor later that same morning saying she showed a property to a man at approximately 2:35 p.m. Monday who fits the same physical description of the suspect. He was also driving a dark blue or black pick-up truck, possibly a Ford F-150.

The potential victim said she had a weird feeling about him because he seemed creepy and originally told her he was bringing his wife.  He showed up alone Monday afternoon and made statements that made the realtor feel uncomfortable.

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At the time of this writing, Mr. Kotter was awaiting to see if charges would be filed.  A look at public records in Manatee county shows that he had a prior felony battery charge that was dismissed and did probation for possession of a controlled substance.

He may have had priors in Sarasota, where he currently resides.

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dui 3A former NFL QB arrested for a DUI is normally not a newsworthy story.  What makes this case interesting is the sheer high number of his B.A.C.

Former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jack Trudeau was arrested last Sunday for driving under the influence, public intoxication and disorderly conduct in Zionsville, Indiana.

The Colts originally picked the now 52-year-old Jack Trudeau in the second round of the 1986 draft out of the University of Illinois. He played reasonably well for Indianapolis until 1993 and then bounced around to  the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers before retiring in 1995.

A local police report said that Jack was pulled over for erratic driving late at night.  He was questioned and the cops determined a DUI investigation was warranted. During the police investigation he showed signs of impairment and was arrested after failing field sobriety exercises.

The police report further mentioned that Jack Trudeau threatened a police officer during the arrest. It says a portable breath test showed Trudeau had a blood-alcohol content of 0.31 percent, nearly four times the legal limit of 0.08 percent!  At that level, a person is reaching a life-threatening amount of alcohol in the system.

LEGAL ANALYSIS 

Florida DUI crimesIn Florida, anything at a .15 or above is known as an enhanced blow.  This may result in a larger fine, more jail time and a mandatory  DMV-ordered alcohol ignition interlock to be placed in the suspect’s vehicle before he is allowed to drive again.  You may also be looking at an extended driver’s license suspension.   In addition, extra punishment such as community service hours or talking to schools or groups about your crime is not unusual.

In Pinellas County, a blow above .15 is no exception when it comes to enhanced punishments.  Besides the mandatory penalty of the ignition interlock, an enhanced fine will almost certainly happen.  Additionally, a stint in the Pinellas County jail is not unusual, even if it is a first time offense.

The Florida DUI statute (316.193) explains the range of punishments depending on the number of DUI, injuries, and other circumstances.  While the statute codifies the law and punishment, keep in mind that the ranges vary widely from county to county. Continue reading

ASaint Petersburg theft crimes lawyer breaking story from BayNews9.  The suspect is innocent until proven guilty but if true, this is a horrendous crime.  People in a position of trust need to be held accountable for taking advantage of the elderly and others who can no longer defend themselves.

 

For the daughter of a patient at Access Adult Family Care Home on 38th avenue in Saint Petersburg, the news went from bad to worse.  She had just found out her elderly mother passed away at the home in late May.  Bedridden, she had spent her last few weeks in the home, never venturing out.  That was the story the daughter believed until she opened her mother’s credit card bill and noticed over 20 charges worth over $2,000 in May.  The credit card was used in restaurants, department stores and gas stations among other places- things that a bedridden woman would not spend money on.

Based on the charges, the daughter went to many of the locations, viewing security footage.  What she found broke her heart.  The videos showed Matos Infante, the owner of the facility, using the stolen credit card!  She reported this to the police who started their own investigation, eventually finding 10 other nursing home victims of either credit card fraud or identity theft.

Based on this investigation, 43-year-old Matos Infante was arrested and charged with 16 counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, eight counts of identity theft and multiple counts of operating an unlicensed assisted living facility (she had let her license lapse in 2013).  The police arrested her at the facility when they were serving a search warrant.

In addition the Florida Department of Health has joined the investigation to ensure the members of the facility were being taken care of.

 

LEGAL ANALYSIS

The charges will depend if and how they charge Ms. Infante.  Most of the theft and fraud she is accused of are felony charges.  They are most likely third degree felonies, with each count being punishable by up to five years in prison!  Additionally, if convicted she will never again be able to own or work at any type of assisted living facility again.

Have you or a loved one been arrested for grand theft or fraudulent use of a credit card?  Then call the Saint Petersburg criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten, P.A. today!  These former prosecutors are experienced trial lawyers.

Blake & Dorsten, P.A. handles all criminal and personal injury cases along the Gulf Coast including Saint Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater, Seminole, Feathersound, Largo, Pinellas Park, St. Pete Beach, Safety Harbor, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Dade City and Brandon.

To speak directly with your Clearwater theft crimes defense lawyer, click on the contact button or call them at 727.286.6141.  Blake & Dorsten, P.A…when your case matters!

 

 

 

 

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In a previous blog, we had written about a Florida woman who was texting as she ran a red light, causing a fatal automobile accident. She was charged with DUI manslaughter as a result of her actions.

Coming on the heels of this, the Miami Herald had a long article about that case and comparing her prison sentence to other similar defendants. The results are surprising. Throughout Florida, while DUI laws are identical, the punishments are definitely not. The severity of the punishment varies by location, judge, gender, age and race among other things…

The defendant featured in a previous blog post, 20-year-old Kayla Mendoza tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” before killing two young women in a drunk-driving crash. She tearfully admitted guilt, but, faced with furious relatives of the deceased, a Broward judge slammed her with a 24-year prison term.

A few days later, a known alcoholic by the name of Antonio Lawrence, 57, faced a Miami-Dade judge for plowing into a restaurant while driving drunk, killing two church elders. Relatives of the deceased offered forgiveness. The defendant only got 10 years.

In a different courtroom in the same courthouse, on the same day, 27-year-old Edna Jean-Pierre took responsibility for killing one person in a DUI crash, then killing another in a hit-and-run crash — while out on bail in the first case! A separate Miami-Dade judge sentenced her to a relatively light four years in prison- a ruling that infuriated relatives of the victims.

The daughter of the second victim killed by Jean-Pierre, Sonya Estiven was livid. “I would have preferred 10 years. Eight years, I would have been a little mad,””But for her to have only got four years, I’m still shocked. I’m still upset. I’m still depressed. The judge sent a message that it’s OK to drink and drive.”

The Florida DUI manslaughter laws include a four-year mandatory minimum for a conviction. After that, judicial discretion comes into play and prison terms vary widely from cases to case based on the county, the victims relatives, prosecutors and other quirks.

The four-year minimum mandatory term is a newer addition to the law, added eight years ago in 2007 over concerns about judges being too soft on drunk drivers who kill. Known as the “Adam Arnold Act,” the law was named after a Key West teen who died in a crash in 1996, and where the driver got only three years of probation.

The newspaper studied over the prison records of 400 fatality cases resolved in Florida in the last three years. They found that since 2012 the statewide average sentence for DUI manslaughter is just under 10 years behind bars. Looking throughout Florida, Miami-Dade had the most cases in that time span, 66,but had among the lightest average sentences with convicts serving an average of just over 6 years in prison. Nearby Broward County had 27 cases with the defendant’s average sentence resulting in a prison time just under 10 years.

The farther north you go in Florida, often the harsher sentence one receives. Palm Beach convicts average 11.54 years in prison for DUI manslaughter, while those in Hillsborough County (Tampa) serve about 10.18 years.

As mentioned previously, there are multiple reasons for the disparity in sentences. Outcomes are swayed by a host of factors: the strength of evidence, the skill of defense attorneys, circumstances of a crash, a defendant’s criminal history, media glare and especially on the Gulf Coast, the desires of a victim’s loved ones.

“Victims drive to a good degree what the sentence outcome will be,” said a criminal defense attorney. “Victims who are not active, not engaged with the state attorney’s office, are going to see a lower number in the sentencing.”

This was certainly true in the above case of Jean-Pierre, who in 2009 drove drunk, killing a man outside of his car on the side of an interstate. The case dragged on for years — until in early 2014, while still on bail, she hit a pedestrian as she was walking along a dark street. The defendant, a nurse, left the scene and immediately took the car to get repaired at a body shop.

Both of Jean-Pierre’s cases had problematic evidence and were not assured convictions for the state at trial. While Florida sentencing guidelines called for for 12 years in prison, the Judge departed after hearing that Jean-Pierre was a mother of two and was a victim of domestic violence. She enraged the victim’s daughter when the defendant was sentenced to just four years in prison.

While the victim’s daughter penned a letter that was read out loud to the judge, no other family members were involved in the case and for some reason her crimes were not given heavy media coverage.
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Drunk drivers who kill rarely escape at least the mandatory four year’s prison time but prosecutors can waive the minimum four mandatory. For example, in a 2009 case pro football player Donte Stallworth received only 30 days in jail and a lengthy probation for killing a pedestrian in Miami Beach. The prosecutors claimed they offered the plea bargain because there was no guarantee of victory at trial. The victim was not in a crosswalk that dark morning when he was struck.

In that case, the decision to support the lighter sentence hinged on the victim’s relatives, who pushed for the deal after receiving a large settlement from Stallwort!.

In my opinion, the number one determination in the sentence you receive is victim’s families and their willingness to forgive. In Lawrence’s case above, he met with families of the two victims killed in the crash, became heavily involved helping recovering alcoholics and even surrendered to jail early before pleading guilty. The Miami-Dade Judge responded by giving him a relatively light sentence of 10 years, much less than the 34 years he faced had he been convicted at trial.

Oftentimes the emotional reaction of relatives also can clash, with some urging leniency while others called for heavy punishment.

For example, the family of a Coral Gables jogger killed by a drunk driver wanted a stiff sentence and got one — at first. The defendant who drove drunk and killed the victim back in 2008, got 12 years in prison during an emotionally charged sentencing hearing.

The defendant had pleaded guilty with no plea deal. But a judge later threw out the sentence after his lawyer admitted he botched the case. Soon after the state realized the case had problems. One vial used to collect the suspect’s blood was expired, and the deceased had stopped in the middle of the darkened road to adjust his iPod — giving the defense an avenue to shift the blame. The defendant ultimately winded up doing five years in prison-much to the anger of the deceased’s parents.

Closer to the Gulf Coast, two young women in well-known cases in the social-media age had drastically different outcomes.

A 20-year-old South Beach bartender, was drunk when she hit and killed a chef walking across the street, then fled the scene before her arrest. On facebook the defendant described herself as a “party princess” and posted multiple photos of her drinking and partying-some of which might have been taken after her arrest! Despite that, in 2013 she tearfully accepted — with the victim’s family approval — a plea deal that called for just four years in prison followed by house arrest and probation.

Two years later another young woman tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” before driving the wrong way on an expressway, plowing her car into another incoming car back in November 2013. Killed in the other car: best friends Marisa Catronio and Kaitlyn Nicole Ferrante, both 21.

The suspect had been drinking at a work party and had a blood-alcohol content level nearly twice the legal limit. She pleaded guilty with no plea deal. She thought she had helped herself by giving two depositions to help the victim’s civil lawsuit against the restaurant where the work party was held and T-Mobile store where the suspect worked. Yet at her sentencing in in a highly publicized hearing, relatives angrily asked the Broward Circuit Judge for the max of 30 years (15 years per count).

Despite her cooperation, her young age, her remorse and lack of any prior criminal history, the judge responded by giving her 24 years!

Her criminal defense lawyer was in shock .”My client was doing everything she could to handle this the right way, and she still got slammed,” he said.

Her attorney admitted the flippant tweet and heavy media coverage provided little incentive for the judge to reduce a sentence. That one text captured the imagination of the public and probably put pressure on the judge.
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A quick blurb from a BayNews9 article about a local crime that shocked the community. Three suspects are now in custody in a killing where there is more then meets the eye…

Bradenton police have arrested three suspects in last weeks double homicide that shocked the community. Security footage showed three masked men break into a private home and kill two homeowners. Five children between one and 11 years old were present and at least one kid was thought to have witnessed the shootings.

Police announced the arrests of Jimmie Mcnear, Terez Jones and Trey Nonombre as the three masked murder suspects. Two of the suspects are 18 and one is in his 30s.

As police discovered more evidence they speculated that the trio sought out 29-year-old Kantral Brooks and his girlfriend, Ester Deneus, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

While at first glimpse this seemed to be a suburban nightmare and a random break in, authorities now believe the house was targeted as it served as a drug den and the murdered man had a large amount of drugs in the house.

During the investigation, police said narcotics were found in the home – specifically, 14 ounces of powder cocaine and “a couple of bags of rock cocaine.”

Making a bad scene even more tragic was that one of the suspects, 33-year-old Terez Jones,was released from the Manatee County jail on $18,000 bond three days before the homicides occurred.

He had been arrested three days earlier on charges of possession with intent to sell heroin and cocaine, tampering with evidence and attempted escape, according to jail records.

A Detective for the Bradenton police department was outraged. “I understand the justice system,” “… We put them in and they bond out, they do something again. That’s going to be a big topic. Should this guy be in jail? Yeah, he should still be in jail. And now he gets out and he’s able to commit a murder. It’s ridiculous.”

The 18-year-old suspects also had criminal histories, each had several convictions for burglary and controlled substance.

The two youngest suspects were caught in a series of early morning SWAT raids in four locations, part of a joint task force between the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Bradenton Police Department.

Police arrested Trey Nonnombre and Jimmie Lee Mcnear, both of Bradenton, and charged them with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of attempted home invasion.

At their first court appearance on Monday afternoon, a judge denied all of them bonds and called them both a danger to the community.
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A quick story in BayNews9 about a coordinated law enforcement “wolfpack” that took place the day before the holiday last Friday. The end result? 12 arrests for driving under the influence, several arrests for drug possession and a whopping 120 traffic citations!

Starting Friday, July third and ending Saturday morning, the latest “Wolfpack” was a coordinated effort between the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Saint Petersburg Police, Clearwater police and the Pinellas Park police department, among others.

With much of Pinellas county saturated with law enforcment, it was not surprising that there were numerous arrests. The final numbers were still surprising. There were 12 arrests for DUI. Thirteen people were arrested for possession of a controlled substance, five for miscellaneous violations, several violations of probation, two for driving with a suspended or revoked license and one for felony driving with a suspended or revoked license.

More than 120 citations were also issued, including 63 for speeding. The remaining citations were varied and included careless driving, no headlights and tag not assigned.
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The New York prison escape story that has captivated the country appears to be at the end. Local news has reported that both prisoners were shot, one fatally and the other is now in custody.

For over three-weeks a manhunt for two escaped prisoners, called a “nightmare” by the governor of New York, came to a violent end this past weekend when one inmate was shot and killed Friday and another was shot and apprehended Sunday. After 22 days of searching by more than 1,000 law enforcement officials, the convicted murderers were finally captured.

Officials announced they had reason to believe the two convicts who escaped June 6 from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, were planning to head to the Canadian border in a final play for freedom. This was after earlier reports said their plan to escape to Mexico failed due to a ride not showing up. U.S. and Canadian law enforcement sent reinforcements in an effort to squeeze the escapees and keep them from potentially making it out of the country.

Sometime Friday afternoon a civilian pulling a camper near Duane, New York. He heard a sound and later discovered after pulling into a campsite that there was a bullet hole in the camper.

After that, a S.W.A.T. team was deployed to a nearby cabin in New York about 20 miles south of the Canadian border.

Inside, they noticed the smell of gun powder. While searching the grounds, investigators noticed movement and heard coughing, state police said.

A short time later Matt, armed with a 20-gauge shotgun, was spotted by a law enforcement officer.

The convict was shot and killed by a Customs and Border Protection SWAT team. He had been serving 25 years to life in prison after being convicted of murder for beating a man to death.

Investigators then set up a perimeter in the area around where Matt was killed to try and corner the last fugitive.

Later that day a policeman was on a routine patrol in the area of Constable, New York, about 1.5 miles south of the Canadian border, when he spotted Sweat on a local road.

The cop ordered him to stop and shot the convict twice in the chest when he started to run.

Sweat, who was serving a life sentence after he was convicted of killing a sheriff’s deputy, was not armed and no law enforcement was injured in the capture.
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What happened, while sad, actually sounds like a country song come to life! A bounty hunter, a desperado and a gun fight…that sounds like old school country.

In Lynchburg, Tennessee a bounty hunter got into a shoot out with country singer Randy Howard leaving the singer dead. While details were still coming in at the time of this writing, the shootout is believed to have happened over a DUI charge!

Randy Howard was an early member of country music’s “Outlaw” movement, which rejected traditional country music in favor of a rougher sound. Howard shared the stage with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Hank Williams Jr., and has written songs for Hank Williams III, according to his LinkedIn site.

The “All American Redneck” singer had been charged with fourth-offense DUI, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a firearm while intoxicated and driving on a revoked license. A warrant was issued for him when he missed a court date.

A friend had earlier offered to drive him to his court date but Randy told him he wasn’t going back to jail.

A bounty hunter by the name of Jackie Shell showed up at Howard’s home to take him into custody. It is alleged that Howard opened fire and Shell shot back. Jackie Shell is reported injured (undergoing surgery) while Randy was killed in the exchange of gunfire.

Tennessee authorities are investigating the bounty hunter to determine if he had the right to enter Randy’s home, an event which precipitated the shootout.
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While megastar Justin Bieber has vowed to get clean and stay out of trouble, his latest legal troubles may put his promise to the test.

Last Thursday in a tiny town in Canada, Justin Bieber plead guilty to assault and careless driving that involved an incident with photographers and his then girlfriend Selena Gomez.

The incident, that took place August 29, 2014,resulted in a plea bargain when the government reduced a dangerous driving charge in exchange for a guilty plea. Justin Bieber intentionally drove a four-wheel ATV into a van two photographers were using to stake him out at his family’s rural property, according to an agreed statement of facts.

The pop star then started to hitt one of them, Todd Gillis, 47, who said he was able to fend off the tiny singer who was yelling at him to leave.

Bieber landed multiple punches on Gillis through the window of the parked van.
While Justin did not hurt the large photagrapher, he was sore in his shoulder afterwards and most likely received a large settlement from Bieber in order to agree to the reduced charges.

In a surprising twist, the photographer was also found guilty of trespassing on Justin Bieber’s family home, which set the above events in motion.

Justin, for his part, appeared via video from his California criminal defense attorney‘s office. He was fined $750 for the careless driving and his assault charges were dismissed. It was unclear if he had to participate in a pretrial diversion program in order to secure the dismissal.

On the day he got arrested, he and his then girlfriend Selena Gomez took an ATV that seats two people, one in front of the other, to the nearby home of a family member. They were on vacation and it was reported that they were driving on roads with no helmets. Meanwhile they were being staked out by two photographers both established paparazzi who had shot them before.

Selena Gomez drove on the way out, but Justin Bieber drove on the way back, and spotted the photographers parked in a driveway up ahead as he approached his own driveway. He drove at them, intentionally colliding with the front right side of their van. The police were unable to determine where exactly the impact occurred, whether on or off the highway, but there was evidence that the van, previously parked, had been moving forward at the moment of impact.

After crashing into the van, Justin immediately raced up and started to batter the photographer.

His criminal charges were dropped, in part, because at the time of this incident, he had no other criminal record. Since this incident, he has had several run ins with the law in both California and Florida. His publicist had no comment after this latest incident and his twitter feed was unusually quiet as well.
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