Articles Posted in Crimes of Violence

Claiming self defense, a 39-year-old Pinellas Park mother is pushing back against an arrest that charged her with aggravated child abuse.

Police claim the mother of four struck her 16-year-old daughter with a baseball bat, leaving the juvenile dazed and bleeding.

The defendant told the judge at a court appearance Wednesday that she was innocent of the charge. “I am not a child abuser”. Rather, the mother claims that her daughter attacked her multiple times and the victim was hit by mistake.

Police were sent out on a disturbance call to the mother’s Pinellas Park home. They arrived to see the victim bleeding from the head and the suspect still holding on to a baseball bat. The victim told the police that her mother went crazy during an arguement about doing the dishes and committed the battery on her.

The suspect denied this and claimed that her daughter walked into the handle part of the bat.

Initially held without bond, the judge took mercy on the suspect after the DEFENDANT’S mother offered to watch the victim and the defendant claimed that she had three other children at home with nobody to watch them. The judge set the bail at $15,000 and ordered no contact between the two parties.

A look at the defendant’s Pinellas criminal record shows multiple priors spanning almost 20 years for charges that include felony theft, worthless checks, drug charges and violations of probation among others. Ironically, she also had a contributing to the deliquency of a minor charge. If this newest allegation is true, she went from contributing to the deliquency of a child to actually harming a minor!

LEGAL ANALYSIS As it is now charged, aggravated child abuse is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison!

In addition, it is a level nine offense which means it scores so high that the defendant is looking at a mandatory prison sentence. Depending on how the state chooses to proceed, her criminal defense attorney may be able to claim self defense or negotiate a lower sentence with the state attorney or the judge. There could be parenting classes, anger management courses, counseling, jail and/or probation as possible plea alternatives.
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The “knockout game”-where one or more people commit an assault or battery against a stranger for no reason- has been all over the news. A series of random attacks in New York, Baltimore, Miami and L.A. among others, has received a large amount of media coverage. Is this a real phenomenon or is this overblown like the “summer of the shark” a few years back?

One good thing about the increased coverage means an increase in the amount of arrests. Per “the smoking gun” website, a suspect in a series of “knockout game” attacks was arrested in New York.

Is chivalry dead? It may be to one New York teen as he was arrested for his part of a vicious, unprovoked attack on an elderly woman.

Juvenile Devin Alexander was arrested for a violation of probation and a battery on an elderly charge last Wednesday. Mr. Alexander first came to light after a video was uploaded to a Facebook page. The video, which can be viewed at the above Smoking Gun link, seems to show Devin bragging to a man that he is going to smack an elderly lady as she walks out of the store. When the woman exited , the suspect proceeded to sucker punch her in the back of the head. The hit was greeted by the man filming screaming out in delight multiple times.

These “knockout game” attacks are getting increased media attention. Unlike many other assaults, there appears to be no motive such as robbery or anger at a known victim. Rather the idea is to find a defenseless man, woman or child and beat them for fun.
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Criminal profiling tells us that it is very unusual for women to become serial killers, but that doesn’t mean there have never been any. In fact there have been quite a few, though they have been spread a little thinner through time. If we choose to go back, we can actually discover many women who killed well into double figures. Below are some examples of the worst female serial killers, and there outrageous crimes.

Belle Gunness

It appears that Belle didn’t take too kindly to the appearance of suitors at her door, the reason we believe this to be true is that she is thought to have killed 32 of them. Perhaps if she had not murdered both of her husbands, she would not have had to have put up with the inconvenience of gentlemen coming to call. Belle is also thought to have killed several of her children meaning about 40 murders all told. The discovery of Belles murders is total irony. She was killed by a lover she had spurned who set fire to her farm in La Porte, Indiana. The investigators of the blaze discovered the bodies that had been buried at her farm. Some say the headless body that was discovered was too small to have been Belle’s, but unmarried gentlemen all over the state breathed a sigh of relief on that day in 1908.

Delfina and Maria de Jesus Gonzalez

These sisters, who ran a prostitution house in Guanajuanto, Mexico, hold the distinction of being the country’s most notorious serial killers. The police raided the brothel in 1963 after a tipoff about forced prostitution; what they discovered was the bodies of 91 people buried on the property. Apparently the sisters’ standards were very high, and many of the bodies were those of prostitutes who were killed for “failing to please the clients”. Whether the 11 men who were killed had “failed to please the owners” is not known. How their criminal defense attorney managed to keep them from the gas chamber is still unknown to this day. What is known is that these unsavory siblings were sentenced to 40 years each, and deserved every day.

Juana Barraza

Bringing us more to the current times is the case of Juana Barazza. Barraza is thought to have started killing elderly ladies in 2005, but it could have been as early as 1990. She was finally charged with 16 murders in 2008, after some confusion about her sex and size. The reason the case was so confusing for the police was they believed they were looking for a man. Barraza was actually a 200lb wrestler so the confusion can be understood. Found guilty of 11 murders, she was sentenced to 759 years in prison. Estimates put the actual total of bodies to be between 24 and 49, though she only confessed to 4 murders. The fact that her fingerprints were found at the 11 murders she was convicted of seems to have gone totally over her head.

Never assume a woman is not as capable as a man of these terrible crimes, because history shows us that they are.

Author Bio: The author of this post, Yorrick, is a freelancer by profession and currently writes for Dribbin and Brown, criminal defence solicitors. He has keen interest in psychology and is always on the lookout for interesting happenings around the globe.
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In a previous blog entry we wrote about convicted murderers Joe Jenkins and Charles Walker, both of whom escaped from prison based on forged documents. Thanks to an exclusive update from Bay News 9, we have an update on both the escape and the forgerer…with a Pinellas County twist!

In front of a Senate panel, the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement testified about the recent escape from Franklin correctional institution of two murderers within weeks of each other. Instead of nail files or smuggled shovels, they escaped by forged documents fooling the prison and allowing the two men to walk out the door within a few weeks of each other.

Both men were quickly recaptured and the forgery ring began to unravel. Described by a spokesman as a “clever fraud ring among a group of inmates at Franklin CI”, the ringleader was discovered to be 48-year-old Nydeed Nashaddai of Pinellas County.

Nashaddai should have been a suspect from the start. He has an extensive criminal history in Pinellas on dozens of charges including burglary, uttering forged bills, escape, grand theft, and criminal use of personal ID among others. In 2009 he was sentenced to 20 years in prison and was in Franklin Correctional. He then escaped a few months later by forging court documents saying he was ordered released-in the same manner as he did years later for these two murder convicts!

The investigation revealed that the suspect used real court documents as templates for his forgeries. The one bright spot to come from this is now the prison system and the courts are working towards developing a new, more secure system to prevent incidents like this from happening in the future. The idea of the new security system will allow the clerk of court, judges, jails and prosecutors to be made aware of court orders that may be suspicious.

Meanwhile, the police are anticipating further arrests in connection to this prison escape. As for Nydeed Nashaddai, his forgery days should be over. It is anticipated that he will be charged with numerous additional offenses including facilitating an escape, forgery and aiding and abetting.
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From a local CBS news affiliate, two Florida inmates serving life in prison for murder, walked out of prison thanks to a clever forgery…

34-year-old killers Joseph Jenkins and Charles Walker both walked out of prison within two weeks of each other despite being sentenced to life in prison without parole. The reason? Each convict had a forged motion and order correcting an illegal sentence!

Forged paperwork with the “signature” of Judge Belvin Perry was sent to the Department of Corrections ordering the men to be freed. The paperwork was sent through Orange County (Orlando area) and failed to raise any eyebrows. It is probable that Judge Perry’s signature was forged due to his involvement in the recent Casy Anthony trial. His signature was plastered on dozens of court orders, many of them available on the web.

When asked for comment, Leesa Bainbridge, the Orange County Clerk of Court spokesperson sounded pessimistic about catching the perpetrator. “I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to determine where these pieces of paper came from. “We have thousands of pieces of paper coming through this office,” Bainbridge told Crimesider. “There’s no way to backtrack and say whether this was mailed in, faxed, or left in a dropbox.”

Additionally, the Florida Department of Corrections is denying wrongdoing. A spokesperson stated that all procedures were followed. After receiving the order, they called and confirmed the same with the clerk, prepared the paperwork and ran a warrant check on the two men.

The killers wrongful release was actually discovered by accident. Per standard procedure, the DOC gave notice of the release to the victim’s next of kin. The shocked victims called the state attorney’s office and after investigation, they determined that the releases were a mistake.

Joseph Ivan Jenkins was released on September 27 despite serving a life sentence for a first-degree murder conviction of a father in 1998. A few days later, Christopher Walker was released from prison despite his life sentence for a 1999 murder. Both men were at the Franklin Correctional Institution but otherwise did not seem to have a connection.

The forged paperwork releasing the two men however, appeared to be remarkably similar. The same motion to correct an illegal sentence with a forged signature from the State Attorney, Jeff Ashton. The same order granting the motion (with the forged signature of the judge) and several pages of legal language was enough to fool the clerk’s office.

The documents in question were motions to correct a so-called “illegal sentence” that was supposedly written and filed by a prosecutor in the State Attorney’s Office. This in itself should have raised some red flags as this type of motion is almost always written by the defendant’s criminal defense lawyer, not the prosecutor.

Walker’s Oct. 7 motion argued that he should never have been sentenced to life imprisonment because he was only found guilty of third degree murder, not second degree.

The motion asks for a reduced 15-year sentence, and another forged document granted it.

Likewise, Jenkins’ Aug. 30 motion also claims that his sentence was excessive because the charges were wrong. The forged order granting a reduction from life to a 15-year amended sentence was filed the same day.A local Pinellas criminal defense attorney believes that the forgeries were so well done that they could only be written by someone who has legal experience.

As of this writing, police are concentrating on finding and recapturing the two men. However, an investigation has also been opened into finding the people/person responsible for the false documents. There are a few leads such as a twitter account that was opened titled “FREE CHARLES WALKER”.

The really embarassing part was that this was the second time that a false document was used in an attempt to get the convicts released. Police investigation revealed that in 2011 another document showed up ordering a reduced sentence. A few months later, similar documents granting Walker the same early release. For an unknown reason, the prison did not release the two men despite the papers being sent to the DOC. Officials are at a loss to determine why these earlier forged documents were not noted in either of the two men’s files.
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Noah Kovacs has over ten years’ experience in the legal field. He has since retired early and enjoys blogging about small business law, legal marketing, and everything in between. He recently purchased his first cabin and spends his free time remodeling its kitchen for his family. Twitter: @NoahKovacs

In spite of the numerous lawyer jokes that suggest otherwise, being an attorney, especially a criminal defense lawyer, is a tough gig that forces attorneys into strange and complex moral and ethical conundrums that most people never have to and would never want to face. For instance, there are amazing public defenders forced by their job to defend clients, to the best of their ability, even when they know that client is guilty. Similarly, there are prosecutors forced to prosecute people they pity and pursue a guilty plea on charges they consider unfair.

It’s not just the lawyers though. Because human nature and interaction is so complex and every single situation is different, everyone involved in criminal law is subject to confusing and thorny issues and choices- including juries. And one of the most interesting of these legal conundrums is the issue of “prior bad acts” (PBAs).

Prior bad acts are just what they sound like- bad… acts someone did prior to their trial. The citing of PBAs during a case becomes tricky when the lawyers and judge(s) involved are forced to determine whether those acts are relevant to a particular case or situation and when they serve only to prejudice a jury against a defendant. An excellent and timely “torn from the headlines” example of this tension is presented by the George Zimmerman controversy.

Despite the passionate and often extremely heated debate regarding the Trayvon Martin shooting, both sides were basically operating on either side of a political divide without too much but Zimmerman’s word to go on. Generally, supporters of Zimmerman assumed he was a decent guy forced to protect himself, while detractors regarded him as a racist bully who killed an innocent kid.

However, since the shooting details of both Trayvon Martin’s and George Zimmerman’s past and current life are emerging into an unsettling pattern that seems to paint a far less flattering picture of them than the one there respective supporters had favored. Some of those details were known before and during the trial (though many weren’t known by the jury) and many only became available after, quite recently.

For instance, there are accusations of molestation made by a cousin of George Zimmerman’s, which could arguably be considered a prior bad act that wasn’t relevant to the case. True or not, alleged sexual battery has little or nothing to do with the shooting. More relevant to the Trayvon Martin case, however, are Zimmerman’s past and current interactions with police, several involving domestic violence disputes.

In 2005 Zimmerman was arrested for “resisting arrest with violence” and “battery of a law enforcement officer” when the officer attempted to question a friend of Zimmerman’s about drinking underage. Later that same year, Zimmerman’s ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him after he allegedly stalked her around her neighborhood in a car before confronting and allegedly shoving her. Zimmerman claimed that she instigated the conflict, getting physical with him when he refused to spend the night with her.

Far more recently, after the trial Zimmerman was once again detained by police when his wife called 911 in a panic alleging that he had punched her father, injuring his nose, threatening she and her father with a gun and taking an iPad she was recording their altercation with and smashing it against a wall before pulling a knife and slashing it up. Shellie, Zimmerman’s wife, has since dropped the charges although she still alleges that he instigated the fight. The police also have some doubt about her new claims.

A good argument could be made for the inclusion of those during a trial because they speak to a number of seemingly relevant, pertinent issues. They suggest that George Zimmerman has a temper and is susceptible to violence. They also bring up one of the earlier-mentioned patterns: that in three incidents of violence, two involving women and one a minor, Zimmerman claimed that the other party was the aggressor.

He claims that he just happened to be in his first fiancée’s neighborhood when she attacked him for refusing to sleep with her. In the most recent scuffle, his version of the story has his wife instigating violence against him- although if she did instigate an attack, calling 911 in a panic is strange behavior for her and smashing the iPad her attack was recorded on is strange behavior for him.

That pattern seems to at least call Zimmerman’s Trayvon Martin story into question, as he claimed that Martin jumped him, hit him dozens of times, smashed his head against concrete, tried to smother him with a hand over the mouth and finally reached for Zimmerman’s gun after telling Zimmerman that he meant to kill him. That is strange behavior for someone who, according to a recording of George Zimmerman telling the police as much, was running away from Zimmerman minutes before the attack.

The rub here, though, is that we don’t know what happened. It’s possible that Zimmerman is the sort of guy who attracts bad luck and everything he’s said is true. The impulse behind keeping that kind of thing from a jury is a noble one- a person should be judged, without prejudice, for the crime being tried (in this case second-degree murder) and not for mistakes in their past. However, our past has an undeniable influence on our present and often, past patterns of behavior are important and even necessary for perspective.

The George Zimmerman with no history of violence and known to all his acquaintances as an even-tempered, cool-headed guy and the George Zimmerman with multiple arrests for assaults and/or battery, restraining orders filed against him and a tendency to tell questionable stories are two very different people to a jury. As complex as life tends to be, though, the truth is probably that George Zimmerman is a little bit of both calm, collected family man and short-tempered antagonist. Figuring out which of those was present on the night Trayvon Martin was shot and a million other hazy, confusing situations like it is what makes the law such a profoundly difficult facet of our society.
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According to a Lauderhill police department report, a Florida couple find themselves in hot water after they attacked a Dunkin’ Donuts employee over a wrong coffee order…

The afternoon battle royale resulted in the arrest of 27-year-old Jeff Wright and his 22-year-old wife Alexis. The husband was arrested for aggravated battery while Alexis was arrested for a misdemeanor battery (which is punishable by up to one year in the county jail).

Per the above police report, the married couple placed an order at the donut drive-thru. They later discovered that Alexis got her coffee with caramel rather then vanilla. That clearly was the last straw.

The couple went inside and began to argue with the employee who filled the order. The verbal altercation quickly became physical.

During the fight Jeff Wright allegedly pulled out a 9mm handgun (which he was legally allowed to carry) and began to hit the donut employee repeatedly with the gun while his “lovely” wife punched the helpless man.

At the time of this writing, both are in the Broward county jail with Wright’s bail at $20,000.

LEGAL ANALYSIS

Jeff Wright may potentially face a multitude of charges for his violent act. An aggravated battery is a battery that is done with a deadly weapon and/or results in great bodily harm or permanent disfigurement. It is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If the victim saw the gun being pulled out on him the the defendant can also be charged with an aggravated assault with a firearm. An aggravated assault is a third degree felony with up to five years in prison a possibilty. Because a firearm was used there would be a three year minimum/mandatory prison sentence. This means it would be three years in prison day-for-day with no “good gain” time.

In summary, without the assistance of a good criminal defense lawyer, the defendant is looking at probable prison time. His attorney may be able to arrange a plea bargain or some other form of lesser sentence.
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As reported in the Tampa Bay Times, a 27 year-old man is accused of hiring a hit man to murder a woman and her daughter. The woman? An alleged victim of the man who was all set to testify against him at there upcoming rape trial.

Demetreius Morris was awaiting the trial in a Tampa jail. He sent out several notes to an unknown individual saying that he wanted to hire someone to kill the victim of a sexual assault charge he was preparing to fight. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, these notes were intercepted (and there are signs all throughout the Orient Road jail saying that all non-legal mail will be read).

The suspect was facing a rape charge from September when DNA matching him was found on the victim.

The 70 year-old victim was by a man with Mr. Morris’ DNA when she was giving him a tour of a church.

The police had previously gotten DNA from the Defendant when he was found guilty of a 2002 lewd and lascivious act on a child.

This DNA sample helped link him to the church rape and he was charged with kidnapping, sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation of an elderly person among other counts.

While he was in his Tampa jail cell he began writing a series of notes to the unnamed source. Between April 12 and April 21st, he wrote multiple times wishing to have the victim killed before the May 8th trial date. He “corresponded via hand-written notes to the listed witness expressing his desire to have a ‘hit’ placed on the victim and the victim’s daughter.” per the Sheriff’s Office.

How was he going to pay the hit man? With our tax dollars of course! He promised to pay the bill with his social security money that he was scheduled to get.

As of this writing, his May 8th trial date for rape is still going. Mr. Morris now finds himself facing an additional charge: solicitation to commit murder, a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years.
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From the Tampa Bay Times website, a Hillsborough county judge is vowing to send a juror to jail because he took it upon himself to research a suspect accused of murder

In Tampa, after ignoring multiple warnings from the assigned judge not to research a murder case starting this week, a potential juror found himself in the crosshairs of the enraged judge.

The juror, name withheld, along with 200 other potential jurors were given written warnings not to research this death penalty case. They were also warned multiple times by the judge not to discuss the case with their fellow jurors. 199 of them apparentely listened. One man did not. And when Judge Bill Fuente of Hillsborough found out that the would-be juror disregarded his instructions he was out of patience. The judge told the wanna-be sleuth to leave his address with the bailiff because he was going to jail. He then threw the juror out of his courtroom!

This judge is presiding over a first-degree murder trial of a man, 30, charged with raping and brutally stabbing a mother of three back in 2007. Because the state is seeking the death penalty, this trial is expected to last up to a month.

This judge had previously attempted to try the suspect last year but was unable to because the criminal defense lawyers couldn’t find 12 acceptable jurors out of a pool of only 60.

Though not his fault, this same judge has previously presided over another failed high profile murder case earlier this year. Dontae Morris, accused of killing multiple people, including police officers, had a mistrial after the judge dismissed over 80 prospective jurors when he learned that they were talking about the case over lunch, against the judge’s instructions.<

For this current case, the judge was extra careful this past Monday. After ordering a panel of 200 prospective jurors he gave all of them a written order not discuss the case with anyone and stressed that they were NOT to research the case. Between lunches and breaks, he reminded them about the order and warned them not to talk about the case.

Then yesterday, a fellow juror reported the suspect talked over lunch about Googling the murderer's name at home the previous night. The juror reported the conversation to the bailiffs who informed the judge. This time, the angry honor did not dismiss the entire panel, but said the man could count on a jail sentence.

As far as the man goes, he is claiming that he didn't read the written order and knew nothing about it. He is also claiming that he learned nothing about the murder suspect from his online research and assummed other jurors did the same thing. This juror claims he cannot afford a criminal defense lawyer for his case so is doing the only thing he can think of…writing a letter of apology to the judge, admitting he was wrong and begging for forgiveness!
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From the Tampa Times, two men were found hiding on a roof after injuring a police officer…

Two Clearwater men accused of agrravated battery of a police officer and fleeing and eluding were arrested this morning after fleeing to a rooftop in an attempt to avoid capture.

Earlier that nigh police were summoned to an apartment complex in Clearwater after reports of people waiving guns inside a car.

When police arrived at the apartments, the suspects committed aggravated battery on a police officer by intentionally driving his car into one of the officers. According to police reports, the officer tried to jump out of the way but was hit by the side of the vehicle, suffering minor injuries.

Officers began a high spped chase of the suspect’s car, which ended in a crash on U.S. 19 near Druid road. It is unknown at the time of this writing if the driver was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with property damage.

Three men got out of the wrecked vehicle and began to run. K9 units tracked two suspects to the Clearwater mall where a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office helicoptor found them on the roof at Lowes!

While one man remains at large, the other two men were Id’ed as Clearwater residents. One man was charged with aggravated battery, drug possession, and obstruction. The passenger faces a burglary charge.

On a side note, more charges may soon be coming. When police searched the crashed car, they found eight pounds of marijuana, five grams of crack cocaine and several guns!
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