Articles Posted in Internet and Sex Crimes

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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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.

BEWARE…….
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According to a story published on TampaBay.com this afternoon, Pinellas County Court Judge Henry Andringa refused to lower the $500,000 Bail for former Clearwater Fire Chief Jamie Geer, who was arrested Monday and accused of Capital Sexual Battery (which requires a mandatory LIFE in prison sentence).The request to lower the Bail came from local attorney Nat Kidder, who previously handled Geer’s divorce case and is discussing whether to represent Geer in this serious criminal case. Judge Henry Andringa said Geer could request a Bond Reduction Hearing, in the future, to argue that Geer’s bail should be reduced.

“I think everyone concerned is dismayed,” Kidder said after the hearing, when asked for his reaction to the charge against the former Clearwater Fire Chief. “Like any citizen, he has the presumption of innocence.”

He added: “I have not seen anything other than the basic paperwork. I don’t know the quality of the State’s evidence.”

According to a BayNews9.com story this morning, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Tuesday in London on a Swedish warrant, London’s Metropolitan Police said.

Assange was arrested at a London police station at 9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. EST) and will appear at the City of Westminster Magistrate’s Court later in the day, police said.Swedish authorities had issued the warrant for Assange so they can talk to him about allegations of Sex Crimes unrelated to WikiLeaks’ recent disclosure of secret U.S. documents.

Assange’s British lawyer, Mark Stephens, said his client would fight extradition to Sweden, according to Britain’s Press Association. The court now has roughly twenty-one (21) days to decide whether to order his extradition, said Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association.Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has said he has long feared retribution for his website’s disclosures and has called the rape allegations against him a smear campaign.

According to an online St. Pete Times story, Clearwater Police Department (CWPD) detectives seized more than eighty (80) computerized gaming machines and a new car last week after executing a search warrant at what authorities called an illegal gambling operation on U.S. Highway 19 North in Clearwater.

The search and seizure happened around 5:00 p.m. Friday at the Rio Arcade, located at 19042 U.S. Highway 19 North. Clearwater detectives began investigating the business after receiving complaints of illegal gambling. A quick look at the Rio Arcade’s website (hyperlinked above) gives the impression that this was more of a casino than an arcade.Detectives believe the establishment was operating an illegal gambling business with approximately eighty-four (84) gambling computers. During execution of their search warrant on Friday, they seized the computers, $10,000 in cash, a 2011 Hyundai and other electronic equipment.

No arrests have been made, but the Clearwater Police Department has forwarded criminal charges against the owner and several managers to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office, which will determine whether to prosecute. Continue reading

According to an online story on BayNews9.com this evening, a Florida State University (FSU) student was arrested today on Child Porn Possession charges.According to authorities, detectives obtained a search warrant for 22-year-old Michael Sendker’s home at the Villa del Largo Apartments and that’s where they found the suspected child pornography.Sendker was booked into the Leon County Jail and is now facing twenty eight (28) counts of Possession of Child Pornography.

As many regular readers of this blog already know, this author is a University of Miami School of Law graduate and proud to be a Miami Hurricane!!
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As I was scanning BayNews9.com for a good criminal law article to blog about, I came across the following story in their “Strange News” column:

A Pennsylvania woman is accused of illegally accepting workers’ compensation payments while working as a stripper.

Forty-three (43) year-old Christina Gamble waived a preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday in Pennsylvania State Court and will go to Trial next month.Prosecutors say the Quakertown woman claimed she hurt her back at her waitressing job and couldn’t work. A judge granted her $360 per week in benefits in October 2008.

But private investigators working for the restaurant’s insurance company say they taped her dancing at C.R. Fanny’s Gentlemen’s Club and Sports Bar in Wilson later that yearGamble is charged with two (2) counts of Workers’ Compensation Fraud and one (1) count of Theft.
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In what is becoming an all-too-often event, a St. Petersburg high school band director has been arrested on charges of having consenual sex with a 15-year-old student.

According to an online Baynews 9 story, the St. Petersburg Police Department arrested 27-year-old Raphael Mclean after they determined that he had sex with a student on his desk in the band room.According to police, the student told them that between October 2009 and January 2010 she engaged in consensual sexual intercourse with Raphael McLean on the desk in his office, located inside of the school’s band room.

Mclean, who lives in Tampa and worked at Lakewood High School in south St. Pete, was charged with Lewd and Lascivious Battery, a Second Degree Felony in the State of Florida.

Aside from being a Sex Offense with a mandatory “Sex Offender” registration requirement, McLean’s L&L Battery charge is punishable by up to fifteen (15) years in prison.

Making matters worse, McLean was previously arrested on March 11th and charged with Lewd and Lascivious Molestation for fondling a different 15-year-old female student without her consent.Investigators are continuing their investigation and ask anyone with additional information about these two (2) cases or any other situations that might involve inappropriate sexual contact with students to call 727-893-7780.

Anonymous tips can be left by calling 727-892-5000. You can also Text a Tip to 727-420-8911.
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Paul C. Austin, 35, of Chicago, was extradited on Sunday and delivered to the Pinellas County Jail (from Illinois) to face a Felony charge accusing him of hiding a camera in a bathroom to take pictures of a young girl while she showered.Austin’s arrest warrant was for a Felony charge of Video Voyeurism, a Third Degree Felony pursuant to Florida Statute §810.145. If convicted of a Third Degree Felony in the State of Florida, Austin could receive a prison sentence of up to five (5) years.

According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the underage girl was eleven (11) years-old when Austin hid a digital camera in boxes inside a garbage can and set it to automatically take nude photos of the young girl as she showered.According to a story in yesterday’s St. Pete Times, Austin’s Video Voyeurism occurred between October 21st and November 11th in unincorporated Pinellas County, near the City of St. Petersburg.

Authorities with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office have reported that a family member of the young girl found the photographs by accident while she was looking for other photos in Austin’s camera. After making this shocking discovery, the relative confronted Austin in November before he fled to Chicago, where he lives.

The family member then approached the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on November 25th and gave their Crimes Against Children detectives a memory card from Austin’s camera. Later, during a monitored phone call (or a “controlled phone call,” as we call it in the business), Austin admitted to taking the photos, according to the warrant for Austin’s arrest.

Detectives assigned to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office’s Crimes Against Children Unit obtained the Arrest Warrant, which was served in Chicago on April 3rd with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force.

The young girl has not been named because of her age and the nature of the offense. In my experience handling Child Sex Cases, it is standard protocal for the identity of the child victim to remain confidential.

According to the St. Pete Times story, Austin was interviewed by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Illinois and gave consent (our fancy, lawyer word for “permission”) to have his computer and camera searched. During the search, nude photos of the young girl were found, in addition to nude photos of other “apparent minors,” according to the warrant for Austin’s arrest.(Author’s Note: I think its fair to say that we will be reading about Austin’s “additional” charges in the not-so-distant future).

As this article is being written, Austin is being held in the Pinellas County Jail in lieu of $50,000 Bail Continue reading

Christy Lynn Martin, a former Azalea Middle School teacher, was sentenced to five (5) years probation Tuesday for “sexting” an eighth grade student, according to the St. Pete Times.Martin, 33, pleaded guilty to Transmitting Pornographic Images through an Electronic Device and Transmitting Material Harmful to a Minor. In exchange for her guilty plea, she was sentenced to probation, will have to register as a Sex Offender, wear an electronic monitor and undergo therapy.The charges stem from Martin’s relationship with an eighth-grade boy. According to authorities, they called each other “husband” and “wife,” kissed each other and sent each other cell phone photos of their private parts.

They did not have sex and did not see each other outside of school, according to information contained in a search warrant related to the case.

“I realize how wrong I was,” Martin said in court Tuesday, wearing a pale pink sweater, hair pulled into a ponytail. “I accept full responsibility for my behavior…. I am extremely ashamed and remorseful for my actions.”

Martin was arrested in March and had been out of jail on bond.

According to the search warrant, the boy, then 14, said he took two photos of himself on his silver Samsung Messenger cell phone, and the teacher admitted taking three photos of herself on her red Sprint cell phone.

The boy sent his photos to Martin, and Martin acknowledged receiving them. She also admitted sending the photos of herself, but officials deleted the name of the recipient. Photos of a woman’s genitals did appear on the boy’s cell phone.

Martin did not admit to calling the boy her husband but did say she threatened him with “divorce,” because he had “too many little girlfriends.”

The document also says the boy touched Martin on her buttocks outside her clothing, but that she did not touch him in that way.

“You done messed up my son’s life,” the victim’s mother told Martin in court Tuesday. “He thinks it’s OK to go with the wrong kind of women…. You destroyed my son, you destroyed my family. I don’t feel sorry for you one bit. If it was up to me, you’d get life. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

At Azalea Middle, Martin taught five computer classes and one “life choices” course, which involved teaching students about positive relationships, self-esteem building and conflict resolution. The boy was not a student of her’s this year. Martin has been placed on administrative leave.As a condition of her probation, Martin can no longer work anywhere with children, including daycare centers, malls, theme parks and schools. Martin said she was working toward a master’s degree.

She asked Judge Cynthia Newton if she could have permission to transport her two children to school. As a single mother, Martin said she had no one else to take them.

“I’m going to allow you to take the kids to school and pick them up from school,” Newton said.

But she could do nothing else on school property.
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