Articles Posted in Internet and Sex Crimes

One of the protagonists from a famous 2009 movie encouraged others to “enjoy the little things.” In the law, it is less about enjoying the little things than it is about paying keen attention to the little things because sometimes the little things can make a huge difference in your criminal case. That was the case for one defendant who was facing sexual assault charges and who won a reversal of his conviction because the trial court, in issuing jury instructions, misstated the crime with which the state had charged the man. These and other minute but highly important details are examples of the types of areas in which experienced Florida sex crime attorneys can help you.

In the case, recently decided by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, the defendant was accused of trying to take advantage of an inebriated woman. Specifically, the defendant, the victim, and several of the defendant’s co-workers had spent the night drinking, and the victim ended up passed out in a field next to the bar’s parking lot. Eventually, several of the group got the unconscious woman to a van owned by one of the group. Even though the victim was “essentially non-responsive,” everyone except the victim went back inside the bar. After that, the defendant went back outside, purportedly to check on the victim. Then, sometime after that, the van’s owner went out to check. She discovered the victim, still largely not responsive, in a “half-naked” state and the defendant, with no pants on, standing over her.

At trial, the jury heard replays of phone calls, made by the victim but recorded by the police, during which the defendant “admitted that he attempted and probably did try to have sex” with the victim. Eventually, the case went to the jury, and the jury convicted the man. With facts like these, the case against the defendant might seem, to a layperson, to be ironclad. However, in many aspects of the law, from contract law to criminal defense, the difference between a favorable and an unfavorable outcome can be the smallest of details and knowing how to present those details to the courts. Additionally, even with alleged facts that are offensive and potentially triggering for some, the law still requires that all defendants receive a trial that comports with all of the fundamental elements of fairness.

When you (or a friend or relative) are facing a criminal trial, there are lots of ways in which the prosecution can make mistakes. The state can bring a case that is too old (in other words, outside the statute of limitations), that is based upon illegally obtained evidence (proof that is barred under the Fourth Amendment), or that violates your constitutional protection against double jeopardy. Two cases, one from here in the Tampa Bay area (recently decided by the Second District Court of Appeal) and one from across the state (decided earlier this year by the Fifth District Court of Appeal), present two different scenarios in which the state can stack charges in a way that violates double jeopardy.

A Single Criminal Episode and Double Jeopardy

The nearby case, which originated in Pasco County, involved a man, a travel trailer, and a firearm. Cecil Lambert stood accused of two counts of second-degree murder and one count of carrying a concealed weapon. All of these charges arose from an exchange outside a travel trailer on land that Lambert owned. Lambert allegedly shot at one man and also placed his gun against the head of a woman, pulling the trigger only to have the gun jam. At his trial, the jury did not find Lambert guilty of any homicide crime. Instead, on the murder charges, the jury decided to convict on two counts of “improper exhibition of a dangerous weapon,” which was a lesser included offense. The jury did, however, convict on the concealed firearm charge. Lambert received a sentence of time served on the improper exhibition convictions and five years on the concealed weapon charge.

Lambert appealed and won. The problem with his verdict related to the pair of improper exhibition convictions. The facts in this case clearly showed a single instance of Lambert wielding his gun in the presence of his victims. In some cases, having multiple victims can mean a possible conviction on multiple charges, but not in this circumstance. The illegal-exhibition statute expressly used the language “in the presence of one or more persons.” That wording meant that, if the accused person engages in one act of exhibiting his weapon, that translates to one count of improper exhibition, regardless of the number of victims involved. Therefore, even though Lambert exhibited his weapon in front of more than one victim, he only brandished it once, so he could only be guilty of one count. By stacking two counts of illegal exhibition based upon this one single criminal episode, the state violated Lambert’s constitutional protection against double jeopardy.

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A blurb from the ever popular website shows how one woman’s anger towards another resulted in a felony charge of aggravated stalking.  The allegations?  That she set up a fake profile of someone she knew on Plenty of Fish asking men to rape her as part of role play…

39-year-old Frances Lee Tapscott of Largo,  is in Pinellas County jail on a $10,000 bond, charged with one count of aggravated stalking.  With the help of a friend, Ms. Tapscott made a fake plenty of fish profile of a real girl, complete with her real pictures and contact information.  The victim, a 25-year-old woman, was made out in the fake profile as a woman who fantasized about rape scenarios.  Calling it role play, the fake site begged men to come over to her given address and rape her!

According to the complaint, “The fake profile contained a request for an individual to come over and rape the victim, stating that she liked to ‘role play,’”.

This one will be hard to explain… a Tampa man has been arrested on multiple charges after being found in bed with a 10-year-old boy by the boy’s mother!

The importance of being Ernest…just not with a child. 25-year-old Ernest Johnson of Tampa was arrested Monday on multiple charges including burglary of an occupied dwelling, possession of burglary tools and lewd and lascivious molestation.

Per a police report, Tampa PD was called out after 4:30 a.m. for a reported burglary. The victim’s mother told police that she found a man naked inside her minor son’s bed!

“I turned his light for his room, I see that face,” said the boy’s mother. “He was laying in the bed. Like normal, like it was his bed.” She woke Johnson by hitting him multiple times, jarring him awake.

The man leaped out of her son’s bed, dived out of the same window he forcibly entered and was gone before the police arrived. Using a K9 unit, police were able to track down Johnson and make an arrest.

The man appeared in Hillsborough county court Monday morning and was denied bond. A brief look at his prior criminal record did not show that he was on a sex offender registry. It does appear however, that the defendant has a prior exposing himself to a minor charge out of Sarasota where he was given almost one year in county.

In addition, this new arrest seems to have violated his probation for another charge.

Not even counting what a violation of probation charge may do to him, these new allegations are extremely serious. Burglary of an occupied dwelling, (Florida statute 810.02(3)) is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15years in prison and it will score mandatory prison time.

The L&L, depending on how it is filed, can be anywhere from a second degree felony all the way up to LIFE in prison! In addition, a conviction under this statute will result in mandatory registration as a sex offender/predator.

The defendant may have some mental health issues as he had previously violated parole by not receiving mental health treatment. If this is so, he may have possible competency defenses depending on the nature of any mental illness.
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Didn’t Tom Cruise star in an 80’s movie with this same plot? Per USA Today two Florida teens were arrested for their part in a local “Risky Business” prostitution ring in Sarasota…

Venice, Florida police made two arrests, a 17-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, who are considered the “leaders” of a prostitution ring which involved three Sarasota high schools.

Per the police, the crime started in August when the two students formed the criminal enterprise. They used fellow students, all female in a scheme that involved multiple high schools and cities.

The two teens have been charged with human trafficking. Why did they do it? “The motive behind it: money and alcohol. Trading money and alcohol for sex,” says a police spokesman.

Police began their investigation in the fall after several students tipped off the school resource officer to the prostitution ring.

The police, using a search warrant, got on the Sarasota student’s facebook account and found a rudimentary business plan. Their were prices set up for various acts along with set rules. For instance, their was an agreement that the prostitutes got 40 percent!

The facebook account also showed the partners writing to themselves, often showing no regard for the young girls they were prostituting. “Why pimp out old hoes when I have fresh young hoes I can give up for money?” the female Sarasota High student wrote in a Facebook exchange to her business partner. She continued, “As long as I’m getting paid I’m trafficking all these (expletive deleted).”

The students used facebook accounts to set up meetings with the “Johns”. This led police to 21-year-old John Mosher. Mosher (pictured), was charged with sexual battery on a victim older then 12. The police claim he paid a 15 year-old $40 and a bottle of alcohol for sex.

During police interviews, students admitted that at least three prostitution deals got done by using facebook and snap chat accounts. School administrators were not commenting other then saying no sex acts took place on school property.
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Technology evolves at a rate that has law enforcement and justice officials continually striving to keep pace with emerging tech-based crimes. And as the flow and availability of personal information continue to accelerate, the value of information steadily rises, making it a modern day target for opportunistic criminals.

Cyber-crime, for example, takes several forms, including data theft, identity theft and other breaches. Misrepresentation is a common feature of cyber-crimes, because the vast nature of the World Wide Web conceals the identity of those who move within it. And will physical limitations once helped thwart criminal enterprise, today’s high-tech cyber-criminals operate without such constraints. As a result, cyber-crime is a global concern, which cannot be adequately addressed by any one nation.

It Can Happen Anywhere

Cyber-crime knows no borders, so no user or region is safe from its ill-effects. From individual efforts to steal identity information and sensitive personal data, to large-scale efforts disrupting corporate and government databases, cyber-crime impacts global security. Hackers have shown their ability to infiltrate nearly every aspect of society, including high-value systems in science and industry. Significant commercial disruption took place recently during well publicized breaches at a number of big-name retailers, when hundreds of thousands of personal profiles were accessed and sensitive financial information disclosed. Widespread cyber-crimes carried out against diverse victims illustrate the Omni-present risks of connectivity and electronic information-sharing.

Cyber-Criminals are Growing Bolder

As security computer specialists fortify defenses against cyber-crime, hackers and other criminals find new ways to circumvent such measures. Mobile technology, for example, is exploding as the population takes its needs on the road with smartphones and tablets. So as consumer habits shift in the direction, they are followed closely by the efforts of cyber-criminals, who see the mobile landscape as a fertile new territory to prey on users. Mobile transactions for purchases and with banks are prime targets for data theft and other misdeeds.

Financial Markets are Global

The very advantages of electronic communication also stand as their primary weaknesses. As interactions are shared online and large volumes of supporting data are housed electronically, financial relationships are more and more international in nature, connecting global financial markets in ways that leave them vulnerable. One need only look at the recent meltdown of the United States real estate market and its subsequent ripples across the globe to confirm how one major disruption can interrupt the economies of multiple regions.

Lack of Global Enforcement Leaves the Door Open

Due to the nature of the Internet, policing it and enforcing penalties against cyber-criminals is more difficult than maintaining security within defined territories. Until consensus is reached among the world’s power players and universal security agreements are made, Internet security remains piecemeal and easier to exploit than a unified effort would be.

Cyber-War is Real

A new chapter opened in cyberspace recently, when malicious code was used to interrupt Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The Stuxnet worm targeted Microsoft Windows networks and Siemans software to execute automatic commands that impacted Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, disabling as much as one fifth of the nation’s enrichment capacity. Such large scale intrusion, with a significant physical outcome, underscores the emerging role computer network infiltration plays in international cyber-warfare. With the potential to disrupt infrastructure, financial databases and even military networks, the potential for destruction has never been higher for cyber-criminals.

Cyber-crime targets individuals, organizations and even governments, reaching into every aspect of modern society. To effectively reduce the threat, international consensus must be reached, to standardize enforcement and accountability across the world. Until then, cyber-criminals are empowered to breach prevailing measures, placing global security at risk.

Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from and you can reach her at
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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.”

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.


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, 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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