Tampa Teen Arrested with Alleged Plans to Surpass Columbine Massacre

“I just did the dumbest thing ever [sic]” was 17-year-old Jared Cano’s Facebook status update hours before he was arrested for allegedly plotting to kill school officials and students with home-made bombs.

What Cano is referring to as “the dumbest thing ever” is unclear, but we do know that immediately after a anonymous tip came in about Cano’s plan, the bomb squad was at his Tampa apartment. It is likely that Cano had shared his plan, and that someone called the police. Some are calling this anonymous tipster a “local hero”.

Cano had a manifesto found by police that detailed his every move and motive. According to an ABC article, his goal was to surpass “the number of students who were killed and injured during the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.” With such serious claims found in Cano’s manifesto, it will be interesting to see what route his criminal defense attorney advises him to take.

With an existing criminal record to begin with, Cano has been accused of threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device, possession of bomb-making materials, cultivation of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.

Cano currently sits in juvenile lockup while the state attorney’s office decides whether or not he will be charged as an adult. Given the seriousness of these allegations and the defendant’s age, he will likely face these charges in adult court.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Holds Florida Drug Statute Unconstitutional

Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Milton Hirsch heard the consolidated motions to dismiss of approximately 40 defendants charged under Florida’s Drug Statute, 893.13, and issued an order today finding that the statute is unconstitutional. He followed United States District Court Judge Mary Scriven’s well-reasoned order likewise holding Florida’s drug statute to be unconstitutional due to its lack of a mens rea or criminal intent requirement. Judge Hirsch’s order is attached.

To date, in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties, the Circuit Judges have not followed Judge Scriven’s reasoning and have denied all Motions to Dismiss filed in these counties, so far. Kudos to Judge Hirsch who had the internal fortitude to step out where no other judge dared to go and hold the statute to be unconstitutional. This will surely spur another round of motions locally and Notices of Appeal to the various District Courts of Appeal as this order makes the rounds across the state. Stay tuned for more information as this pivotal decision is dissected.

Good News for Floridians; Crackdown on pill mill crisis is on the right track

With the increase in prescription drug-related deaths in Florida, Governor Rick Scott established the Drug Enforcement Strike Force to crackdown on Florida’s pill mill crisis. Yesterday, Attorney General Pam Bondi issued a statement with the results.

She stated that because of the collaborative efforts with the Drug Enforcement Strike Force, an immense amount of prescription drugs are no longer being dispensed illegally.

According to The Attorney General’s news release, the efforts include:

  • – Raising awareness on prescription drug abuse
    – Partnering with government officials to combat pill mills and prescription drug abuse (stricter administrative and criminal penalties)
    – Prosecute prescription drug-related cases through the Office of Statewide Prosecution when illegal activity spans multiple jurisdictions.

“The fact that prescription drug-related deaths have increased since 2009 is crushing, and with our continued efforts I am confident that these reports will reflect positive changes in the future…” Attorney General Pam Bondi says.

The fight against prescription drug abuse has already resulted in hundreds of arrests, the seizure of thousands of pharmaceutical pills and an increased caseload for many Florida criminal law attorneys.

Announced today, the Governor and Cabinet will recognize August 27 as “Prescription Drug Take-Back Day” giving citizens the opportunity to safely get rid of prescription drugs.

“Armed and Dangerous” Florida Siblings Still On The Run

On August 2nd, a massive FBI manhunt began for three siblings accused of shooting at a Pasco County police officer and robbing a Georgia bank at gunpoint. Dylan, Ryan, and Lee Grace Dougherty have been described as armed and dangerous and a week later, are still on the run.

While there is not a clear motive for the siblings’ actions, there is speculation that youngest brother Ryan is the “ring leader.” Last Monday, Ryan was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct and ordered to probation for 10 years to avoid jail time. That Tuesday (just one day after his court appearance), Ryan’s criminal defense attorneywas informed that Ryan cut off his ankle bracelet and allegedly shot at a police officer.

Ryan’s mother believes a trigger may have been that he was “’unbearably discouraged by the terms of his probation’ and said he feared the conviction would prohibit him from seeing his newborn son” according to an ABC article on the Dougherty siblings.

This is not the first run-in with the law for any of the Doughertys. To add to their existing record, they may face criminal charges of robbery, carjacking, burglary, firearms and weapons, probation violations and grand theft.

The three have since been plastered all over news outlets and billboards from Tennessee to New York in hopes to end this search. The FBI warns that the Dougherty siblings pose a threat to both law enforcement and the public.

Update 8/10/11: Dougherty siblings captured and arrested after a car crash in Colorado.

How are you prosecuted for Mortgage Fraud if there is no Federal Statute?

While there is no federal statute that references “mortgage fraud” directly, recent news articles abound on the subject. In four separate cases in South Florida, the U.S. Attorney accuses 27 of mortgage fraud, according to an August 4th article posted on LoanSafe.org. On the same day, an Arizona builder pleads guilty to mortgage fraud, according to KTAR.com and fox news cited that 14 have been charged in a $60 Million mortgage fraud scheme. The list goes on…

Cases involving “mortgage fraud” are typically prosecuted under existing federal statutes involving conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud, false statements to an FDIC-Insured Bank and others. Ancillary offenses, including tax fraud and bankruptcy fraud can also be charged following a “mortgage fraud” investigation. Depending on the number of properties involved and the dollar amount of the loss, penalties vary widely and can involve real estate agents, mortgage brokers, real estate attorneys, title closers, appraisers, and straw buyers. Some of the schemes in the news are fairly elaborate, involving fraudulent mortgage applications, fake W-2s and tax stubs, fraudulent short sells and even arson and insurance fraud.

Sometimes innocent consumers unknowingly fall victim to unscrupulous real estate agents, bankers and brokers and may find that they are under investigation by the government for “mortgage fraud”. When this happens, it is critical to contact an experienced federal criminal defense attorney before speaking to the government.

Casey Anthony: A not-so-free woman after all?

We’ve spent months following the Casey Anthony case, and until this past Monday, we didn’t think there would be anything left to write about. Then news broke that Casey Anthony had 72 hours to report back to Orlando to meet her probation officer.

We still don’t know Casey Anthony’s current whereabouts, but if she is ordered to serve probation, she will be required to provide an Orlando address to her probation officer. In most cases, the parolee’s address is public record, but exceptions can be made and given the public’s opinion in this case, that exception may be considered.

Anthony is facing the possibility of probation for check fraud charges that she plead guilty to last year. The confusion lies in whether or not Anthony’s jail time counted towards that probation. Anthony’s criminal lawyer argues yes, but Judge Stan Strickland says no. According to anMSNBC article, “Strickland said at the time he had meant that Anthony — found not guilty of killing her daughter and released in July — should serve the probation order if and when she was freed.”

On Tuesday, Cheney Mason filed a motion to disqualify Judge Strickland. Today, the judge has recused himself and the matter has been reassigned to Chief Judge Belvin Perry, the judge who presided over Anthony’s first-degree murder trial.

We will see whether Casey Anthony will be required by Judge Perry to return to Orlando to serve probation and whether she will abide by the court’s order. If a bench warrant issues for her arrest for failing to return to Orlando, the fever to locate her will be heightened. Media and law enforcement from across the country will seek to capture her arrest and return her to Florida. The public spectacle surrounding Casey Anthony will surely continue.

Manuel Valle’s Criminal Defense Attorney Successful in Staying Execution Over Drug Concerns

On Monday July 25, 2011 the Florida Supreme court determined that Manuel Valle, convicted of killing a police officer, had valid concerns regarding the new death penalty drug. As a result, Valle’s death sentence has been postponed until September 1.  In general, an inmate’s concerns elsewhere have not put a stop to executions.

According to an article published by Reuters, the Supreme Court determined that “[Valle] has raised a factual dispute, not conclusively refuted as to whether the use of pentobarbital in Florida’s lethal injection protocol will subject him to a ‘substantial risk of serious harm.’”

What is the difference between pentobarbital and sodium thiopental(the drug previously used)?

Not much except that Pentobarbital is often used to euthanize animals. The reason many correctional facilities are using the drug is because there is a shortage of sodium thiopental and it will not be made by U.S. manufacturers any more.

Valle’s lawyer’s argued that pentobarbital will subject him to substantial harm. It isn’t uncommon in recent days that a criminal defense attorney will argue the risk of harm to postpone a sentence.

Judge Declares Florida’s Drug Law Unconstitutional

Mary S. Scriven, United States District Judge for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, held Florida Statute 893.13, Florida’s drug statute, unconstitutional in an order filed on July 27, 2011. In accord with Rule 57 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a Declaratory Judgment shall be entered separately, declaring Florida Statute, 893.13 unconstitutional. In her 43 page order, Judge Scriven granted Petitioner, Mackle Vincent Shelton’s Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. Section 2255.

Click for the full text of the opinion.

Man Accused of Murder Will Represent Himself in Court

The jury selection process has begun for a Pinellas County man accused of killing his wife over 10 years ago. Robert Temple is facing first-degree murder charges and has announced that he will be representing himself in court.

With such serious accusations and convictions at stake, Temple is making a very bold move by deciding to act as his own attorney. Temple has no legal background, but according to a TBO article, he is finding encouragement from the recent acquittal of Casey Anthony.

“Nobody believed Casey Anthony, and I see she got found not guilty,” Temple said. “It’s a matter of what the proof shows, and I believe I have enough proof to show I didn’t kill my wife.”

It is not completely surprising that Temple finds encouragement from the Casey Anthony case, but it does seem unreasonable that he is going at this alone. Having the expertise of a criminal defense attorneyis certainly one of the key components that helped make Casey Anthony’s case. Although evidence is the major piece of the puzzle, the knowledge and experience that a defense attorney would provide is essential.

Temple has many forces working against him in this case; no attorney, a “forged” confession document, and his ex-girlfriend, who allegedly helped clean up the murder scene, is testifying against him. Will Robert Temple do himself justice or will he end up regretting the decision to act as his own attorney?

Letters From The Bar

I am honored to have received a personalized letter of thanks for the second year in a row from the Bar President in regards to my time and efforts spent with the Criminal Law Certification Committee. I feel privileged enough to be able to serve as chair of a Committee, which, as Mayanne Downs put it, “Our committees have always been the grassroots of our existence.” To receive personalized thank-you letters makes the experience even more rewarding.

For those who serve along side me on the Bar Committee, I’d like to thank you for a great year as well. I look forward to what is to come and appreciate all of the hours we have spent together devoted to theBoard Certification Program. I am confident that the future will be great, if not better, than the past two years thanks to Presidents Mayanne Downs and Jesse H. Diner.

Ratings and Reviews

Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rated

FL Bar Board Certified

Former Prosecutor