Articles Posted in Federal Offenses

Earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (a Federal appeals Court) issued a landmark opinion in the criminal case of United States v. Warshak, finding that individuals have “a reasonable expectation of privacy in their email” and that the Fourth Amendment protects email held by an Internet Service Provider (ISP).In other words, “[t]he government may not compel a commercial ISP to turn over the contents of a subscriber’s emails without first obtaining a warrant based on probable cause.” United States v. Warshak, et al., No. 08-3997, Slip Op. at 23 (6th Cir. Dec. 14, 2010).

As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve been asked the following question many times: To what extent can the police secretly view/obtain your private email? This core question, namely – what are the limits of police surveillance – was answered this week by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a lengthy opinion (that is hyperlinked above).

On one side of the issue, privacy advocates are pleased as punch with the opinion which holds that the government/police must obtain a search warrant based on “probable cause” before it can search emails stored by Internet Service Providers (ISP’s).The case involved a Federal Fraud prosecution of Steven Warshak, an Ohio executive, whose company sold an herbal supplement which was touted for its purported ability to increase a man’s, um, physical attributes. Perhaps you’ve seen a commercial or two for this product?As part of its Fraud investigation, the United States government obtained about 27,000 private emails from Warshak’s Internet Service Providers. Warshak moved to suppress/exclude the emails as evidence, contending that the U.S. government obtained them through an unreasonable search and seizure, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

People have a “reasonable expectation” that emails will remain private, the Sixth Circuit stated, using some colorful language. “Lovers exchange sweet nothings” and “businessmen swap ambitious plans” all with the click of a mouse button, the Court said. By obtaining access to someone’s email, law enforcement agents gain the ability to peer deeply into his activities. . . the Fourth Amendment must keep pace with the inexorable march of technological progress, or its guarantees will wither and perish.”

The Sixth Circuit held that Warshak’s constitutional rights were violated when investigators obtained his e-mails without a search warrant.

In a minor side note, the Court upheld his convictions. One of Warshak’s attorneys, Martin Weinberg, told the Associated Press that the Court’s ruling on email-privacy was helpful to his client; however, the Court should have also overturned his convictions.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation hailed the recent Sixth Circuit ruling, saying in a statement that it is the “only federal appellate decision currently on the books that squarely rules on this critically important privacy issue.”

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers also weighed in with praise. “Americans expect and deserve protection from government agents who would snoop into their private communications without probable cause and a court order,” the group said in a statement.Please remember, this opinion only applies to “government agents.” This opinion will not prevent your wife or girlfriend from snooping into your private email account.

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According to a story in today’s St. Pete Times, six (6) jurors deliberated for more than two (2) hours Wednesday afternoon but went home for the evening before deciding whether 49-year-old Maurice Bayless bred and trained pit bulls to fight.

To me, the first thing that came to mind after reading this story was NFL quarterback Michael Vick and his involvement in a similar dog fighting ring that landed him in a Federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas for almost two (2) years.A Tampa jury will continue to deliberate today and possibly decide Bayless’ fate.

For two (2) days, this Tampa jury looked at photos of filthy, chained and wounded pit bulls. Eight (8) puppies and ten (10) adult dogs were seized from his home. All older dogs were deemed too aggressive for adoption and were euthanized.

On a video, jurors saw one lunging at another and a man saying, “Go get him.”

Assistant State Attorney Natalia Silver told them that man was Bayless, and that he exercised his pit bulls to exhaustion in hopes of making them champions, pumped them with nutrients and drugs to make them strong, and forced them to breed so he could sell future fighters.

Defense attorney Mark Rodriguez, however, told them prosecutors did not prove any of it — not that the dogs were wounded while in Bayless’ care, not that the puppies were products of a champion fighting bloodline.

“The state can’t prove a thing that Mr. Bayless did or did not do with any of the animals that were found on his property,” he said.

Evidence the state presented as proof of dogfighting was, on its own, legal. But it was the state’s burden to prove Bayless’ intent to use it illegally.

Jurors saw weighted collars prosecutors said were used in rigorous training regimens and surgical tools they said Bayless used to stitch up dogs after fights.Could the collars have been used to tire and calm aggressive dogs? The tools used to legally clip dogs’ ears? Rodriguez, as defense attorneys always do, tried to cast reasonable doubt on the State’s case.

In another interesting part of the trial, jurors saw a tattoo on Bayless’ arm depicting a dog and the words, “scratch to win.”

A lottery reference, the defense attorney posed.

Marine lingo, Bayless’ twin brother, Michael, said.

Jurors saw blood sport magazines and records of fights. Rodriguez noted some of it was a decade old and said it was just “ancient history” strewn about a messy house.

But Silver responded, “We covet what we keep, and that is what this is about.”

“Yeah, it started a long time ago,” she said. “But there is no evidence that it ever stopped.”

Regardless of whether Bayless if found Guilty of these charges, what is plainly clear is that these dogs suffered. And, as a dog lover, that’s a shame.
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More than one (1) month after a Federal jury deadlocked in his Cocaine Trafficking trial, Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton walked out of the Pinellas County Jail today after a judge ordered his release under strict conditions.Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, declined comment and covered his face as he left jail and headed home to South Florida.He had been behind bars since his arrest in December. A Federal judge declared a mistrial September 27th after jurors couldn’t agree on a verdict. Banton is scheduled to be tried again in February.

“We’re thrilled that Buju will have some time to regroup before we try this case again,” defense attorney David Oscar Markus said.

As a condition of Banton’s release, his friend Stephen Marley, a musician and son of reggae icon Bob Marley, posted $300,000 worth of equity in his South Florida home.

Last month, U.S. Magistrate Anthony Porcelli ruled that Banton could be released under stringent conditions. U.S. District Judge James Moody last week denied a prosecution appeal of Porcelli’s ruling.

Under the terms of Banton’s bond, he must pay a private security detail to guard him so he doesn’t flee. He also was required to sign an extradition waiver (ensuring his return if he does flee the country) and he will have to wear an electronic monitoring device.

Two (2) men indicted along with Banton, including the singer’s driver, have pleaded Guilty and are awaiting Sentencing.

Banton maintains he was set up by a well-paid government informant.

However, Federal prosecutors have argued that recorded conversations show Banton was an experienced Cocaine Trafficker who was trying to invest in another deal Continue reading

LOS ANGELES – According to a breaking story published by the Associated Press, Grammy-winning rapper T.I., who has a history of Drug Offenses and is on Federal Probation after spending time behind bars on Gun Charges, was arrested along with his wife after police smelled marijuana coming from their car, authorities said.The rapper was arrested Wednesday night in West Hollywood during a traffic stop, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy Mark Pope told The Associated Press. Authorities said they smelled a strong marijuana odor but would not say if any other drugs were found in the car.

The 29-year-old rapper and his wife, Tameka Cottle, were released from jail at about 4 a.m. Thursday after posting $10,000 bail each, sheriff’s Deputy Luis Castro said.

T.I.’s publicist declined to comment.

The arrests follow last week’s detention of socialite Paris Hilton, who is being investigated for Felony Cocaine Possession after a motorcycle officer smelled pot wafting from her car.

The Atlanta-based rapper, whose real name is Clifford Harris Jr., is a multiplatinum hitmaker. Known as the “King of the South,” he has emerged one of music’s most profitable stars.He also has a key role in the current top box office movie “Takers.” The shoot-’em-up about an armored truck Robbery that goes bad was released last week and topped the box-office chart.

T.I. served seven (7) months in an Arkansas Federal prison and three (3) months in a Georgia halfway house on Federal Weapons Charges and was released in March. He was sentenced to serve three (3) years of supervised release after his prison sentence ended.

He was ordered not to commit another Federal, State or local crime while on supervised release, and also ordered not to illegally possess a controlled substance. He was also told to take at least three (3) drug tests after his release and to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program.

Patrick Crosby, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, had no immediate comment Thursday on whether Harris violated the terms of the judge’s order.

Since his release, the rapper, who previously spent time behind bars for Drug Offenses, has vowed to live a better life. He spoke to children about the dangers of drugs and guns, and former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young was one of his supporters. As he prepared for his most recent sentence, he starred in the MTV reality show “T.I.’s Road to Redemption: 45 Days to Go.”

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, T.I. talked about living a more positive life.

“Right now, it’s all about moving forward and just acknowledging the blessing that are here today. … Just moving past the regrets of yesterday — the things that could’ve been done better,” T.I. said in a July interview.

Unfortunately, at this point in time, it looks like the only forward moving for T.I. is that he is one step closer to going back to Federal prison.
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According to an online story on, members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), along with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), busted a major drug operation that was using produce shipments to smuggle Cocaine into the Tampa Bay area.

The men arrested are accused of bringing $2.5 million worth of drugs from Mexico to Tampa Bay communities like Palm River and Progress Village.Deputies say a 23-year-old college student from Texas was at the top of the operation. At the bottom were local “gang members” who distributed the drugs.

“Thirty-three gang members and drug dealers have been federally indicted to date and a dozen more are still pending Federal and State charges,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Chief Jose Docobo.

The drugs were hidden in boxes of limes. Deputies say the drug dealers hid the cocaine in packages of limes because the strong odor of a lime can hide other smells, but they say it didn’t work because K-9’s were still able to sniff out the drugs.”The limes were in boxes and inside those boxes the Cocaine was concealed inside other boxes within that pallet or shipment,” Mark Trouville, with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Deputies say it was then turned into Crack Cocaine and distributed on the streets of Progress Village and Palm River.

According to the story, concerns from neighborhood groups prompted the “crack down.”
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According to a story in yesterday’s St. Pete Times, “[a] year-long drug investigation led to the seizure of more than $1.5 million in cash and Monday’s arrest of a 28-year-old man on Federal Drug Charges.”Details from a Federal arrest warrant showed how Cocaine was shipped from Mexico and distributed through St. Petersburg’s neighborhoods by top members of “8-Hype,” a local criminal street gang based in the Harbordale section of St. Petersburg.

The suspect named in the Federal arrest warrant, Justin Levine Richardson, was arrested on a Federal charge of Conspiring to Distribute Cocaine. What makes this story interesting is that Narcotics detectives said they found $1,008,720 inside Richardson’s mom’s car.According to the St. Pete Times, “Richardson has been well known to narcotics detectives for years. In 2004, the St. Petersburg man was arrested in Texas for shipping drugs through the mail. He was sentenced to five (5) years in a Federal prison and was still on Felony Probation for that crime when he was arrested Monday.”

Richardson’s arrest was part of a joint operation between the St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). According to authorities, they tracked down witnesses who said Richardson supplied them with Cocaine; tracked him as he allegedly transported a large black duffel bag containing $277,585 to a drug “stash house”; and discovered a courier who crossed the U.S.-Mexican border 176 times since 2008 (you’d think, if anything, the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and/or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would find 176 border crossings, between the United States and Mexico, in less than two (2) years at least suspicious?).

Yesterday, Richardson, of 500 Trinity Lane in St. Pete, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals. He is currently being held, without bond, in the Pinellas County Jail on a “courtesy hold” for the U.S. Marshals.
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A disgraced Illinois insurance executive pleaded guilty Tuesday, in Los Angeles, California, to secretly shooting nude videos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, who repeatedly called her stalker a “sexual predator” and said she hopes he “never sees the light of day,” says The Associated Press in a recent USA Today article.Michael David Barrett pleaded guilty to Interstate Stalking after Andrews urged the judge to give him a harsh sentence and not allow him out on bail.

“His actions have had a devastating impact on me and family,” said Andrews, who attended the hearing with her father and attorney.

She said she is constantly reminded that Barrett’s videos appeared online and subjected her to cruel taunts from sports fans while working as a sideline reporter.

“I don’t know him,” she said. “I haven’t met him. I hope he never sees the light of day.”

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real allowed Barrett to remain free pending sentencing on Feb. 22.

According to a plea deal filed last week, Federal prosecutors and Barrett agreed to a 27-month prison sentence. But the judge will decide how long he serves and how much restitution he will have to pay Andrews.

Barrett has admitted renting hotel rooms next to Andrews three (3) times and shooting two (2) videos of her while she was naked. He was accused of posting the videos online and trying to sell them to the Los Angeles-based celebrity gossip site TMZ this year.

Andrews was poised as she addressed the court. She looked down at times as Real read the allegations against Barrett, which included details of him traveling to follow Andrews. She shook her head when Real read about Barrett buying information about Andrews online, and dabbed tears after Barrett entered his guilty plea.

Barrett stood at a podium for the nearly ten (10) minutes it took to read the allegations against him. He repeatedly answered, “Yes, your Honor” when Real asked him to waive his rights and confirm the truthfulness of the allegations.

Federal Prosecutors in Los Angeles have agreed not to pursue further charges against Barrett. However, he could face criminal action in other states stemming from other videos he allegedly shot of unsuspecting nude women through peepholes.
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An “anonymous tip” led undercover detectives to a Bartow home, where they found a working moonshine still according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives searched the house on Thomas Jefferson Circle East in Bartow, where they found the fully-operational still. They seized the still, along with seven jars of moonshine.

The two men who live at the home, 54-year-old Kenneth Wayne Wilkerson and 36-year-old Rockie D. Smith, said they used the still to make moonshine for their own use.”I knew it was illegal but I wasn’t going to sell it. I didn’t see no harm in it,” Wilkerson said. “The moonshine we made – it was good and like I said, I wish you could have tasted some of it.”

Detectives said they also admitted to selling moonshine to their friends and coworkers.Both men were arrested and charged with one (1) count each of Possession of a Moonshine Still, Possession of Moonshine and Conspiracy to violate Florida’s beverage law. All three (3) of these charges are third-degree felonies (each punishable by up to five (5) years in prison).
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The “King of Hudson” has been dethroned.

A federal judge has sentenced Arde Olsen, also known as the “King of Hudson,” to 20 years in prison for Trafficking in Oxycodone.The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Olsen was the ringleader of a large oxycodone trafficking organization that he mainly operated from an auto repair shop at 11923 Pine Forest Drive in Hudson and a home on Denton Avenue.

Law enforcement targeted Olsen in a Federal drug operation called “Operation Oxy Express,” which led to the arrest of Olsen and 18 others. Each has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to Federal prison.

Olsen, 51, drew the harshest sentence this week among the defendants. The lowest sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Virginia Covington was two years, which went to the youngest defendant, 19-year-old Amber Marie Morreale.

To read the plea agreement (courtesy of the, please click here.

Prosecutors said the group obtained large amounts of oxycodone from various pharmacies across Tampa Bay through Doctor Shopping. Olsen paid individuals to visit doctor offices and obtain prescriptions for oxycodone.

According to a prior St. Pete Times article, here is a list of those indicted in “Operation Oxy Express:”

• Arde Olsen, 51, who also goes by Arne. Authorities say he was the ringleader.

• Shannon Star Olsen, 45, who married Arde in 2002.

• Arde’s son, Jason Michael Olsen, 24.

• William “Billy” Joseph Califano, 29.

• Earle Monroe Silcox, 30.

• Jessie Krumm, 21.

• Amber Marie Morreale, 19.

• Jerald “Popeye” John Gilio Jr., 33.

• Anthony “Ant” Robert Upton, 28.

• Donna “Fat Donna” Jean Bynum, 31.

• Debra A. Collins, 48.

• Dannie James Mariedth, 50.

• Sarah Lynn Maynard, 25, who also goes by Sara Widemann.

• Joshua “Josh” McTavish Brown, 24.

• Anthony “Tony” Keith Christian, 27.

• Billy Ray Hardin, 27.

• Soni Jo Cheesbrough, 27.

• Dennis “Ash” Ashley Miller, 35.

• Jereme Lee Gould, 24.
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Pot-smoking patients and their sanctioned suppliers should not be targeted for Federal Prosecution in states that allow medical marijuana, prosecutors were told Monday in a new policy memo issued by the Justice Department. For the complete story, check out the Associated Press article in today’s St. Pete Times.

Under the policy spelled out in a three-page legal memo, Federal prosecutors are being told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.

The guidelines issued by the department do, however, make it clear that Federal agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce Federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

“It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate Drug Traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

By the government’s count, 14 states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Some medical marijuana advocates say Maryland shouldn’t be included in that group, because the law there only allows for reduced penalties for medical marijuana usage.

Florida, however, does not permit the medical use of marijuana.

California stands out among those for the widespread presence of dispensaries – businesses that sell marijuana and even advertise their services. Colorado also has several dispensaries, and Rhode Island and New Mexico are in the process of licensing providers, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, a group that promotes the decriminalization of marijuana use.

Advocates say marijuana is effective in treating chronic pain and nausea, among other ailments.
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