Articles Posted in Juvenile Crimes

Sexting,” the act of sending nude or semi-nude images from one’s cell phone or computer, is being cited as a major factor in the recent death of a Ruskin teenager.Thirteen (13) year-old Beth Shields Middle School student Hope Witsell ultimately took her own life when the taunting and bullying by other students became too much to handle.

According to a recent story in the St. Pete Times, Hope Witsell’s death is just the second in the nation in which a connection between “sexting” and teen suicide can be clearly drawn.According to Parry Aftab, a nationally known “cyberlawyer” who has appeared on Goodmorning America and the Today show, “This is very important, because it shows that sexting-related suicides are tracking the same way cyberbullying-related suicides are.”

A 2009 Harris online poll shows that one (1) in five (5) teens admit that they’ve sent naked pictures of themselves or others over a cell phone. But even that number may be low, according to experts.

While the details leading to Hope’s death vary, many students describe the chain of events this way: During the last week of school in June, Hope forwarded a photo of her breasts to the cell phone of Alex Eargood, a boy she liked. A rival girl, who was the girlfriend of another boy Hope liked and a friend of Alex’s, asked to borrow Alex’s phone on the bus. That girl found the image and forwarded it to other students. Within hours, the image had gone viral at both Beth Shields Middle School and Lennard High School.

Aside from the embarrassment associated with nude photos landing in the wrong hands, Florida law considers the possession or distribution of nude images of minors to be Child Pornography, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five (5) years in prison.

Unfortunately, while Hope’s death may be the first of its kind in the Tampa Bay area (and the State of Florida), it will probably not be the last. Continue reading

Jordan Valdez, the Davis Island teenager who was charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death, is expected to plead guilty and be sentenced on November 24th. For those unfamiliar with this case, Valdez, who was 16-years-old at the time, was involved in a fatal crash on February 8th, killing a homeless woman as she crossed Hyde Park Avenue near the Davis Island bridge. The victim, Melissa Sjostrom, 33, died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.In what has become both a newsworthy and controversial case in the Tampa Bay area, Valdez has been charged (as an adult) with a First Degree Felony which carries up to a maximum of thirty (30) years in prison. However, authorities with the Hillsborough County State Attorneys Office have already indicated that they will not be seeking prison time or a conviction. For the complete story, please read today’s St. Pete Times article.

It only takes a quick look at the 256 online “comments” that follow a previous St. Pete Times article, that was published on May 19, 2009, to get the feeling that this case has upset many in the Tampa Bay community. Initially, Valdez was cited for Careless Driving, a non-criminal traffic infraction that is usually punishable by a small fine. Adding further insult to injury, that Careless Driving citation was dismissed in a Tampa traffic court (without anyone from Sjostrom’s family present — despite a written request from the family to continue the matter so the family could travel down from Kentucky) by Hillsborough County Court Judge Joelle Ober.

After the St. Pete Times went public with the story, and following the public backlash that the story created, the Tampa Police Department “re-opened” and “re-investigated” the case. And, after doing a much more thorough job the second time around, the Tampa Police Department finally built a solid case for prosecutors to bring to Court. Eventually, Valdez was arrested and charged as an adult with Leaving the Scene of an Accident Involving Death. Continue reading

Amer Ali Ejak, 16, has been Indicted for First Degree Murder and will be prosecuted as an Adult for his role in the death of a 34-year-old father, Thomas Johannesen, in Hillsborough County two weeks ago. For the complete story, please check out today’s St. Pete Times article.

Deputies say that Ejak, and his 22-year-old co-Defendant, Christopher Cox, killed Johannesen, then wrapped his body in a sheet before hiding it in a closet. It is alleged that Ejak fatally struck Johannesen in the head with a whiskey bottle.After hiding Johannesen’s body in a closet, the two Defendants returned to show their friends what they had done.While Ejak was originally booked into the Juvenile Detention Center, he was transferred today to the Orient Road Jail where he will remain, on no bond, until his trial.
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Improvements in technology, as well as social media, have led to the creation of some rather new and popular crimes (that didn’t exist when our parents were growing up). For instance, anyone who reads a newspaper is probably familiar with the following “new-school” types of criminal activity: “Cyber-bullying,” “Sexting,” “Texting While Driving,” and “Cyber-stalking.”

However, one of the classic (ripped straight from a Lifetime movie or recent episode of Law & Order, never-gets-old type of cime has occured, once again, in Tarpon Springs, Florida this week.A Tarpon Springs mother and daughter face Felony Burglary and Battery charges after law enforcement determined that they beat up a recreational cheerleading coach.

Karen Joanne Wood, 41, and her 16-year old daughter, Kyersten Wood, were arrested September 5th after reportedly assaulting Sharell Ortiz, 34, at Jasmine Sports Complex in Tarpon Springs. For more information, check out today’s full St. Pete Times article.As suggested by some of the readers’ comments following the St. Pete Times article, “wft” is wrong with parents these days?
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An interesting story in today’s St. Pete Times highlights the life, or lack thereof, of Teddy Braden, the former gang member turned blogger that blogs from the Pinellas County Jail.

Braden, who is in the Pinellas County Jail on Drug Charges, blogs with the help of his mother — who takes his notes and letters and posts them online at: teeninjail.blogspot.comBraden, who was arrested for the first time at age 13, has a Juvenile record consisting of various Drug Charges and a Residential Burglary. As an adult, he has been locked up for doing drugs, selling drugs, Grand Theft, Burglary and now Drug Trafficking.

In one of Braden’s blog posts he states that “One of my biggest regrets is joining a gang.” The quote sits below a picture of Braden, wearing a red t-shirt, hat and bandana, while throwing up a “B” (a noted gang hand sign for the Bloods). However, something about this photo tells me that Braden would not survive, on the streets, for very long.
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In a very emotional sentencing hearing, that I happened to witness while in the same courtroom on an unrelated case, a St. Petersburg mother plead guilty to Manslaughter on the morning her trial was to begin in a case where she let her 15-year old son, Shawn Ledesma, drive her car, which he crashed, killing one of his passengers, Raquel Carreras, a 14-year old student at Northeast High School.

For the complete story, check out this St. Pete Times article.Personally, I think this would have been a very interesting case had it gone to trial. While I certainly understand the position of the State Attorney’s Office (after all, someone’s child was killed that evening), I also think it is a bit unfair to treat this Defendant in the same way that we would treat someone who intentionally drinks and drives and kills someone leading to a DUI Manslaughter charge.

At trial, the State of Florida would have needed to prove that Lesa Ledesma “knew” or “should have known” that giving her car keys to her 15-year old son would have lead to someone being seriously inujured or killed. To me, that would have been a stretch as underage kids drive their parents’ vehicles a lot more than we probably realize or want to admit.

The mother of the now-deceased high school student stated that she would like for parents to “quit being a friend, and be a parent.” After many years of prosecuting and handling difficult and emotional cases such as this one, I could not have said it better myself.
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A recent Tampa Tribune article opined on a very current issue in the State of Florida: “Should Texting While Driving Be Banned?” For the complete article, click on the Tampa Tribune link.

After several recent high-profile Traffic Crimes in the Tampa Bay area (including Nick Hogan, Jennifer Porter and Jordan Valdez), Florida law makers are considering cracking down on driving distractions (in this case, Text Messaging).

Many States have already banned texting while driving. If Florida is next, the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. will be ready, willing and able to assist anyone cited under this new law.

The Blake & Dorsten, P.A., In Clearwater, handles all Traffic Offenses and Violations including: Speeding, DUI, DWLSR, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, Fleeing or Eluding a Law Enforcement Officer, Aggravated Assault with a Motor Vehicle, Reckless Driving, Racing on a Highway, DUI Manslaughter and Vehicular Homicide.
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A recent story in the St. Petersburg Times has indicated that crime is on the rise in the City of St. Petersburg, Florida. According to the latest numbers, Burglary
and Theft Crimes are rapidly increasing.

For the full story, click here:

Police Chief Chuck Harmon has suggested that the rapid rise in crime is due to many factors including the current economic crisis, rising unemployment and home foreclosures.

While Property Crimes like Auto Theft are on the rise, most Crimes of Violence are down this year. Robbery is down 12 percent this year and the number of Homicides have been cut in half.These statistics have lead to a steady increase in business for the Blake & Dorsten, P.A. in Clearwater. Criminal Attorney Nicholas J. Dorsten, of the Blake & Dorsten, P.A., handles all criminal matters arising in the City of St. Petersburg and throughout the Tampa Bay area.
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