Articles Posted in Internet and Sex Crimes

From the Tampa Bay Times, a county wide task force puts a dent in sex crimes in Clearwater with an undercover sting…

A large task force from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, St. Petersburg police department, Clearwater police, the FBI and others worked for months in planning the sting. Reminiscent of the old MSNBC show “To Catch a Predator”, authorities began Pinellas County’s largest child predator sting in years.

Between last Thursday and this Monday (January 27), investigators posted adds on dozens of websites and chatrooms such as AOL, craigslist, and yahoo chatrooms. The officers posed as underage boys and girls between 13 and 15 years old as well as parents offering their children up for sex! They reported that within minutes of opening a chat, they would recive five to eight instant messages.

Eventually photos and text messages were exchanged with dozens of men. Meetings were set up in an attempt to have the men travel in what they hoped was sex with underage children. Once the meeting was arranged, the officers would contact patrolmen to make the arrest, meeting the suspects at various places in north Pinellas.

Travel they did. Suspects soon swooped in from all over the state. One man came to Clearwater from Kenneth City on a bicycle. Fathers, husbands, students. Professionals, homeless and even one man studying to be an elementary school teacher!

The officers have charged the vast majority of these men with various charges such as traveling to meet a minor, seduction of a child over the internet as well as sexual battery.

The men range in age from teenagers to 65 years old. Most are from Pinellas county, Hillsborough and Manatee with one man coming from Miami.

The arrested men had various stories. Some broke down and confessed, some denied and others had horrible stories. One man admitted to “urges” he could no longer control. One man from Tampa, who had traveled in the hopes of meeting a mother who was selling her underage daughter for sex, claimed to have previously slept with a four year old child!

Another man had left his 10 and 12 year-old daughters at home in the hopes of meeting what he thought was a 14-year-old girl for sex. His wife was called at work to pick up their daughters from home!

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gave a press conference Monday afternoon. He was pleased with the results but admitted that dozens more arrests might have been possible. He shared his views on those arrested. “They are predators. Nothing but predators. They really need to be eradicated from our county, I view this as the No. 1 public safety issue in Pinellas right now.”

LEGAL ANALYSIS
A Clearwater criminal defense attorney should know the possible penalties on these charges. The traveling to meet a child charge and the seduction of a minor over the internet or electronic device are third and second degree felony charges. This means they are punishable by up to five years on the third degree and 15 years prison on the second degree.

More importantly to both the suspects and society as a whole is the requirement to register as a sex predator or sex offender. These requirements are quite extensive and include registration, updating their information with the Sheriff two to four times per year and exclusion from living in many areas where there may be children. The registration requirements/frequently asked questions are found in the above link.

Lastly, a conviction on many of these charges will include being subject to a potential Jimmy Ryce hearing. This may involve an involuntary civil commitment upon release from prison for treatment in a secured facility.
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From a blurb on the CBS news website, 18-year-old Kaitlyn Hunt was arrested and charged with having a sexual relationship with an underage high school classmate.

The senior at Sebastian high school in Florida, started having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old freshman until the freshman’s parents found out. They contacted the police and Kaitlyn was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery of a child 12 to 16 years of age.

Kaitlyn Hunt’s parents responded by setting up various facebook pages and other online groups to demand charges get dropped. Other groups, such as the ACLU have hinted that the prosecution of this case is homophobia and that the 14-year-old’s parents are lashing out at Ms. Hunt and accusing her of “changing” their little girl.

Neither the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office or the 19th circuit prosecutors are backing down.

“If this was an 18-year-old male and that was a 14-year-old girl, it would have been prosecuted the same way,” Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said at a press conference.

“The idea is to protect people in that vulnerable group from people who are older, 18 and above,” Bruce Colton, state attorney for Florida’s 19th circuit, said, according to the station. “…The statute specifically says that consent is not a defense.”

Mr. Colton went on to say that they have no plans to drop any of the charges based on the petitions. However, as is common with these types of cases, the Indian River County State Attorney’s Office has offered Kaitlyn Hunt a plea bargain. The Defendant has until this Friday to accept a reduced charge of child abuse in exchange for two years of house arrest and one year of probation. Most importantly, Kaitlyn Hunt would not have to register as a sex offender.

LEGAL ANALYSIS

First, a handy guide: Florida’s laws on age of consent

Anyone younger than 16 cannot consent to sexual contact.

A 16- or 17-year-old can consent to have sex with someone who is 18 to 23 years old.

Anyone under 18 years old cannot consent to have sex with someone 24 years or older.

Lewd and Lascivious Battery is found under Florida Statute 800.04(5)(c)2. It is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. There are very few defenses to such a charge if the victim is underage. The victim’s consent is not a defense. The victim lying to the defendant about his/her age is not a defense.

What the Indian River County prosecutor did is not unusual in these types of cases. In 2007 Florida passed what is now known as the “Romeo and Juliet” law which allows those charged with consensual teenage sex to petition the court to stay off the sex offender registry.

Finally, what of the allegations that Kaitlyn Hunt is being treated differently because of her sexual orientation? Most local Tampa attorneys disagree.

Charles Lambert, a Tampa attorney who has had similar cases, including a same-sex relationship involving boys, said “some attorneys were debating this yesterday and the general consensus was that we don’t see a big difference in how these cases are prosecuted based on gender or sexuality.”

Nicholas Dorsten, a Saint Petersburg criminal defense lawyer, who has handled several of these cases agreed, saying “an 18-year-old man caught with a 14-year-old-girl would have been facing the exact same charge. Normally the prosecution looks at the ages of the parties involved, the facts of the case and what the victim’s family wants”.
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According to an online story on SunSentinal.com, a Coconut Creek man accused of posing as a doctor and offering free door-to-door “breast exams” has reached a deal with prosecutors, lawyers told a Broward County judge on Tuesday.

Phillip Winikoff, 81, was accused in April 2006 of carrying on the ruse with women at an apartment complex in the 3200 block of Northwest 40th Street in Lauderdale Lakes. Investigators said two (2) women took Winikoff up on the offer, allowed him into their apartments and realized something was amiss only after the phony “breast exams” started.Winikoff was charged with three (3) Felony counts of Sexual Battery, two (2) counts of Practicing Medicine without a License, two (2) counts of Simple Battery, and one (1) count of Using the Title of Doctor without a License.

If tried and convicted, he could have been sentenced to more than forty-five (45) years in the Florida State Prison system for the Sexual Battery charges and another ten (10) years for Practicing Medicine without a License.

It was not revealed Tuesday whether the deal Winikoff reached with prosecutors will keep him out of prison.

Winikoff, who was in court with a half-dozen family members, was scheduled to enter a plea of either Guilty or No Contest, but by the time the prosecutor and Winikoff’s lawyer arrived, Broward Circuit Judge Sandra Perlman said she had a Trial to oversee and needed to reschedule the Winikoff plea. No firm date was set.

At the time of Winikoff’s arrest, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said he carried a little black bag to lend credibility to his claim of being a doctor. The first victim, 36 years old at the time, told detectives he started the exam by fondling her breasts, and she knew something was wrong when his hands wandered elsewhere.By the time the victim called 911, Winikoff had already found a second victim, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.

LADIES, PLEASE TAKE NOTE: The next time a man shows up on your doorstep claiming to be a doctor who performs free door-to-door “breast exams,” think twice about accepting his offer. Yes, even if he’s got a black doctor’s bag.
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As reported by BayNews9, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is at it again.

In another “cost-cutting” measure, the Polk County Jail will no longer provide free underwear to its inmates.Normally, when an inmate is booked in the jail, they are given an orange shirt, orange pants and underwear.

In order to save money, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd has proposed making males inmates pay if they want their “tighty whities.”

The cost-saving measure was part of the sheriff’s 2011-2012 budget he presented to county commissioners Thursday afternoon. Judd said it will save the county $45,000.

Although women behind bars will still be provided underwear, the men will have to pay.

“For those who don’t want to pay, they can let the breeze blow up one leg and out the other,” Judd said (in classic Grady Judd fashion).

The idea drew smiles from several county commissioners and laughter from the crowd.

“You and I buy it at the store. So, if they want it, they can buy it,” he said. Judd said they are also cutting eleven (11) positions, including six (6) supervisors.

Judd says while his department is doing more with less, his highest priority remains keeping the people of Polk County safe.

Judd said the new policy will not cause the quality of service from the department to go down.

“None of these cuts will keep us from answering the call,” Judd said.

FYI — As for the underwear, it’s about $2.50 for briefs and $4.50 for boxers. The choice is up to the inmates.

“We give our inmates choices at our jail,” he said.

The new underwear rule will breeze into effect Aug. 1st.
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While the Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog regularly reports on the latest legal trends throughout the State of Florida, I sure hope this doesn’t become the latest Florida trend: beating people up and posting videos online.

PALM BAY

Two (2) 15-year-old teens were arrested in Palm Bay after police were tipped to a video of them beating another teen unconscious, according to TCPalm.

According to a recent online story in the Bizarre Florida section of the St. Pete Times, a California adult entertainment company is about to make some south Florida husbands pretty upset with Federal lawsuits seeking up to $150,000 in damages (each) for copyright infringement.

As initially reported in the south Florida Sun Sentinel, married men who illegally downloaded the movies “Bootylicious Girls” and “Brazilian Babes” may have a really awkward conversation coming with their wife and/or girlfriend.

Adult entertainment company Elegant Angel filed a series of Federal lawsuits last week against 58 “John Does” in South Florida who allegedly pirated its movies. Elegant Angel, based in Canoga Park, California, has the Internet addresses of the computers used to illegally download the movies and wants Judges to allow it to subpoena the computer owners’ names through their Internet service providers (ISP’s).”I firmly believe that everyone has the right to protect their intellectual property,” said M. Keith Lipscomb, one of the Miami attorneys for Elegant Angel. “Right now, the adult entertainment industry is being tremendously damaged by the infringement of its copyrights over the Internet.”The adult entertainment industry has become more aggressive within the last year in pursuing copyright cases. In many instances, film companies have filed lawsuits against dozens–even hundreds–of “John Does” at a time, accusing them of downloading videos using BitTorrent, a file-sharing
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According to an online story on The Street.com, Facebook investment scams are proliferating on the Web and investors should be on the lookout, the securities industry’s main self-policing organization warned on Tuesday.Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) warned in a a statement that con-artists have been pitching fake investments in Facebook and other “well-known social media companies.” The scams usually take the form of “pre-IPOs”, or the sale of unregistered shares in a private company to an investor prior to the initial public offering.

The release notes the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently settled a civil action against one trader “who allegedly bilked more than 50 U.S. and foreign investors out of more than $9.6 million in a series of pre-IPO scams involving purported shares of Facebook, Google and other well-known companies.”Among the tips FINRA is disseminating to the public, the release urges investors to ask themselves “why would a total stranger tell me about a really great investment opportunity?'”

The warning comes as Wall Street firms like JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs have climbed aboard a mini-Gold Rush in hot, privately-traded social media companies. Continue reading

BEWARE: This story, reported in the south Florida Sun-Sentinal is bizarre and twisted and may be inappropriate for those that love animals. OK. You’ve been warned.

A 40-year-old man has been arrested on a charge of Sexually Assaulting his roommate’s dog in Oakland Park, Florida according to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Tomas Bautista, of Oakland Park, was taken into custody Thursday evening, on one (1) count of Animal Cruelty, a Third-Degree Felony, said sheriff’s spokeswoman Dani Moschella. However, as I learned when handling another disturbing man-on-dog sexual abuse case (while at the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office) Florida is one of about a dozen states with no law specifically banning sex with animals.

The 3-year-old female Chihuahua mix, named Mimi, is recovering, said her owner, Clemente Velasquez, 67, on Friday afternoon. After being treated by a veterinarian, “she is now just lying down on the sofa,” Velasquez said. “She’s not happy like she normally is.”According to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Velasquez, who is Bautista’s roommate, arrived home Thursday and found Bautista drunk. He told him to go to bed, but Bautista instead went to the backyard. Mimi (the dog) followed him outside.

Soon after, Velasquez heard Mimi yelp, so he grabbed a flashlight and ran outside. He saw his dog running from Bautista and found Bautista passed out with his pants down.

Mimi was bleeding, so Velasquez notified authorities and took her to the Coral Springs Animal Hospital.On Friday afternoon, Bautista was in Broward’s main jail on $2,500 bond.

Hopefully, if no one has done so yet, this story will be posted on www.pet-abuse.com
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According to a story on ESPN.com, a Florida International University (FIU) baseball player with a record-setting 56-game hitting streak has been charged with Rape in the Bahamas, court officials in the islands’ capital said Monday.

Garrett Wittels is accused of raping a 17-year-old teenage tourist on December 20th while on a visit to the archipelago east of Florida. The 20-year-old infielder ended last season with the second-longest hitting streak in NCAA Division I history, two behind the 58-game run by former Oklahoma State star and Major Leaguer, Robin Ventura, in 1987..
Two (2) of Wittels’ friends also face Rape Charges, officials said.

Robert Rothschild, 21, of New York, was accused of raping two 17-year-old girls, while Jonathan Oberti, 21, also of New York, was charged with raping one, according to Bahamian court officials.

Chief Magistrate Roger Gomez granted Wittels and the two others $10,000 Bail at their Thursday arraignment in Nassau. The U.S. suspects were not required to enter pleas and returned to the United States.

It is unclear how, or if, the charge would affect Wittels’ status with the FIU program. FIU begins its baseball season February 18th and its first three (3) games are set to be televised while Wittels continues his chase of Ventura’s record.

Magistrate Derence Rolle-Davis will begin a preliminary inquiry on April 18th to determine if there is enough evidence for the case to go to Trial. By then, FIU’s season will be more than half over.

Wittels, who set school and Sun Belt Conference records with his streak in 2010, did not respond to a message seeking comment sent to his Facebook account. He posted congratulatory messages on his Twitter feed Sunday night after FIU’s football team beat Toledo to win the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit — the first bowl win for the Golden Panthers’ football program — but no mention of the legal matters.

Wittels tweeted on Dec. 18 that he was going to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for several days.Wittels’ father, an orthopedist, told The Miami Herald that his son would be vindicated. He said his son was “devastated” by the allegations.

“Anyone can accuse anyone of anything at any time,” Michael Wittels told the Miami newspaper during a Monday morning phone interview. “He’s not doing well, obviously. He’s blown away. He’s devastated that someone would accuse him of this.”

Michael Wittels, whose telephone appeared to be disconnected later Monday, told the newspaper that his son and his friends met the two girls at a casino and they later went to a private party. The girls apparently described themselves as students at the University of Arkansas, he said.

In the Bahamas, the maximum penalty for a first-time rape offender is seven (7) years in prison.
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As we enter another Holiday Season, the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. would like to wish you and yours a Happy and Safe Holiday weekend.With the support of all of our friends, family and clients, 2010 was another excellent year for the Blake & Dorsten, P.A.. And for that, we have much to be thankful for this Holiday Season.

To our family and friends, thank you for your patience and understanding when it was necessary to work late nights and/or weekends.

To our business colleagues and our outstanding network of fellow attorneys, thank you for not only your referrals but for the trust that you have placed in the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. to provide an experienced and aggressive representation to those that you’ve sent our way.

And to both our former and present clients, thank you for the trust that you have placed in the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. to protect your rights and to handle your important criminal and/or traffic-related matters.

As many of you know, 2010 presented some different challenges for the Blake & Dorsten, P.A.. Without your support, we would not have been able to achieve the many successes that came our way.

On behalf of the entire Blake & Dorsten, P.A. team (Pam, Eryn, Oatie and myself), have a Happy, Healthy and Safe Holiday Season.As always, attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten will be available throughout the Holiday Weekend. In fact, we were very grateful to sign up a new Client today and make a Christmas Eve trip to the Pinellas County Jail.
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