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November 2013 Archives

Only 17 of 57 Remain Accused in Allied Veterans Racketeering Case

Seven months after a state and federal law enforcement dragnet resulted in the arrests of 57 Floridians on racketeering charges, only 17 defendants remain. In March, employees of charitable gambling cafés run by Allied Veterans of the World were hauled in from 23 Florida counties and five other states.

Innovative or Intrusive? Feds Follow Fraud Suspects on Facebook

A recent Florida case certainly wasn't the first time law enforcement agents have used social media to track criminal suspects. Over recent months, media stories have revealed that the tactic is growing common among both state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Court Finds Appellate Counsel's Assistance Ineffective

In Martinez v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2250d (Fla. 1st DCA 2013), Martinez petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus contending that he received ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal of his sentence for attempted 2nd-degree murder.

Convictions for Cultivation of Cannabis and Trafficking in Cannabis Violated Double Jeopardy Principles

In Gonzalez v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2212a (Fla. 4th DCA 2013), Gonzalez pled guilty to cultivation of cannabis for count one and trafficking in cannabis over twenty-five pounds for count two. Gonzalez was adjudicated guilty and sentenced to sixty months in prison on each count, the sentences to run concurrently.

Reckless Driving Conviction Overturned

In Stracar v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2209a (Fla. 4th DCA 2013), Stracar was convicted of two counts of vehicular homicide. Stacar argued that the trial court erred in denying her motions for judgment of acquittal on the basis that the State's evidence failed to show that Stacar was driving in a reckless manner sufficient to prove the charges.

First DCA Reverses Excessive Sentence Then Reverses Sentence Again

In Sprott v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2238a (Fla. 1st DCA 2013), Sprott pled guilty to count one: uttering a forged bill, count two: possession of forged notes, count three: attempted scheme to defraud, and count four: possession of a forged, stolen, or fictitious driver's license. The trial court adjudicated Sprott guilty on all four counts and sentenced him to 24 months in Florida State Prison. On appeal, however, the First DCA reversed the original sentence as excessive.

Court Reverses Carjacking Conviction on Double Jeopardy Grounds

Figgs timely appealed his sentence on double jeopardy grounds his sentences for carjacking with a firearm, sentences, and armed robbery. He contends that the trial court committed fundamental error in adjudicating him guilty and sentencing him on both the armed robbery and the carjacking with a firearm charges because the only item he took from the victim was the key to the car that he carjacked. The State conceded that his dual convictions violated double jeopardy. Therefore, the Fifth District Court of Appeals Court reversed his conviction for carjacking with a firearm and directed the trial court to vacate that conviction and sentence. The court affirmed his other convictions and sentences. Figgs v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2195b (Fla. 5th DCA 2013).

Prosecutor Withheld Information In Regard to a Juror

In Davis v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2247b (Fla. 1st DCA 2013) a prosecutor withheld knowledge of a sitting juror's involvement in the law enforcement investigation of the case being tried although the prosecutor was unquestionably aware of that fact.

Defendant's Testimony Delayed in Navy Veterans Assoc. Fraud Trial

The testimony of a man accused of running an allegedly fraudulent Tampa charity called has been delayed due to the birth of his defense attorney's child . The 66-year-old defendant has been charged with theft, fraud and money laundering because, prosecutors claim, little of the $100 million raised over 8 years by the U.S. Navy Veterans Association was actually used to assist veterans. The trial should resume next week.

Guilty Pleas Do Not Preclude Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claims Based on Double Jeopardy

In Barritt v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2183a (Fla. 1st DCA 2013), Barritt appealed an order summarily denying his Rule 3.850 ineffective assistance of counsel motion and amended motion for post-conviction relief.

Important Federal Sentencing Guidelines Decision

In Rodriguez, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a four-level enhancement under federal sentencing guidelines section 2B1.1(b)(2)(B), after concluding that the Government had failed to present any "reliable and specific evidence" to support its contention that the defendant's fraud crimes involved more than 50 victims. Particularly noteworthy was the extremely critical concurring opinion written by Senior District Judge Dudley Bowen of the S.D.Ga., who wrote separately to comment on the Government's far too common "cavalier disregard" of its obligations to present real evidence at sentencing proceedings.

Federal Crimes Sentencing Guidelines USSG 3B1.3 "Special Skill"

In Berry, the Tenth Circuit issued a logic-defying federal crimes decision which held that a defendant's possession of a commercial driving license qualified as a "special skill" within the meaning of federal sentencing guidelines section 3B1.3; and it affirmed the use of a two-level sentencing enhancement on the defendant -- a commercial truck driver caught with drugs in his truck -- even though the Application Notes refer to the specialized skills of people such as "pilots, lawyers, doctors, accountants, chemists and demolition experts."

Assets Seized by Florida or the Feds After a Criminal Charge?

Many people don't realize that being charged with a crime can result in many or all of their assets being seized by the government. Both Florida and the federal government have granted themselves the authority to confiscate any property law enforcement believes can be tied to certain criminal activity, and both use that authority to the fullest in connection with a variety of drug and white collar crimes. This is called civil forfeiture.

Federal Crimes Court Rules on Entrapment

The Cortes decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is an important sentencing entrapment ruling in which the Ninth Circuit held, for the first time, that a Tampa federal crimes attorney and a federal defendant "is entitled to present his sentencing entrapment defense to the jury if the success of that defense would result in a lower statutory sentencing range."

Defendant Granted New Appeal on Double Jeopardy Issue

In Hankins v. State, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2198a (Fla. 5th DCA 2013), Hankins sought another appeal, alleging ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for counsel's failure to argue that his convictions and sentences violated double jeopardy.

Mark J. O'Brien's cases have been featured in:
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