What does this Safer-At-Home order mean for the Court System in Florida

The courts are still open, but very limited, as they have been for the last few weeks. The Florida Courts are still open, but for limited functions such as First Appearance, Arraignment, Bond Hearings, Injunctions/Restraining orders and some others. That means if you or a loved one get arrested, you can still seek the assistance of an attorney. While we’re locking up the physical office, you can still reach us by phone, 239-333-4686 or email: spencercordell@hotmail.com

Attorney Spencer Cordell, 239-333-4686

The Case of Carole Baskin’s Missing Husband is Still Open

  • Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister is still looking for tips for Carole Baskin’s missing husband Jack “Don” Lewis.
  • Sheriff Chronister held a press conference today, sharing some new details about the investigation.
  • Lewis’ disappearance was featured extensively in an episode of Tiger King, which suggested Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin was a prime suspect.

Joe Exotic

By now, almost everyone has experienced the number one quarantine distraction that is the Netflix documentary series ‘Tiger King’. We covered the arrest of “Joe Exotic’ (Joseph Passage-Maldanado) on Crimcourts back when he was arrested, but the documentary takes a 7-episode deep-dive into he and several other big cat zoos. One of the outstanding mysteries from the show is the disappearance of the first husband of one of those zoo owners, Carole Baskin, the founder and owner of Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue.

The disappearance of her husband, millionaire Jack ‘Don’ Lewis in 1997 has never been solved, and now the Hillsborough County Sheriff is using the renewed interest from ‘Tiger King’ to solicit the public for more information from this still-unsolved case. Sheriff Chronister held a press conference today, and revealed some details of interest to watchers of the Tiger King series. The Sheriff indicated that Ms. Baskin is not being as cooperative as she may have been in the past. HCSO asked her to take a polygraph test, and she declined, citing the advice of her attorney. The sheriff also mentioned the meat grinder that had been on the property, and which was referenced in Tiger King. The sheriff says the meat grinder was removed from the property mere days before it was searched, so it was never able to be tested. It’s also worth noting that the septic tank, which was one of Joe exotic’s favorite theories, was installed well after Mr. Lewis’ disappearance, and is not considered relevant to the case. Baskin disputes allegations she was involved in her husband’s disappearance.

For those who haven’t seen the series, Carole Baskin met Don Lewis walking down the street in Tampa one night, and later married him. Lewis was a millionaire who left his previous wife to be with the much younger Baskin. Lewis apparently had one or more mistresses while married to Baskin, and made frequent trips to Costa Rica. Shortly before his disappearance, he had indicated an intention to a friend that he planned to leave Ms. Baskin. However, he was last seen on 8/18/1997, with no explanation, and his vehicle found abandoned at a small airfield. Not long after, Ms. Baskin revealed a trust that provided for her to control his multi-million dollar fortune in case of his death or, suspiciously spelled out, his disappearance. He was declared dead as soon as the 5-year period ran, and Ms. Baskin inherited the vast majority of his fortune.

There are more details in the series, which I finally watched and insist you do the same. But the new revelations, such as the missing meat grinder, will only add to the suspicion  engendered by the documentary. Joe Exotic was sentenced to 22-years in federal prison for soliciting Baskin’s murder, along with charges for selling and killing tigers. I leave you with the country ballad video produced by Joe Exotic, which uses a Carole Baskin look-alike to suggest she killed Don Lewis and fed him to her cats.

Warrant Issued for Church Pastor that Held Services in Violation of Stay-at-Home Order

A mega-church in Tampa defied a “safer-at-home” order in effect in Hillsborough County, Florida, and held a crowded service Sunday morning. Today, the pastor is facing charges for holding the service in violation of the order. The Sheriff and State Attorney held a press conference this afternoon to announce the charges, saying they had reached out to the church a couple of times, and the church refused to cancel the service. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne will reportedly turn himself in on charges of unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order.

Rodney Howard-Browne via Facebook

The church, and pastor Howard-Browne, will argue that the stay-at-home order violated their first amendment rights, but the equation is not that simple. The order was content neutral, meaning it did not target religious services, but all gatherings. For instance, a city cannot bad one party from putting up signs before an election, but they can ban all signs more than a month before the election: the state has more leeway on such content neutral rules. Usually, those are applied to free speech element of the First Amendment, but these rules also differ in that they deal with the free exercise of religion and the right of peaceable assembly. There’s not much precedent to use, as the last time we had such a public health emergency in this country was 100 years ago during the Spanish Flu epidemic. I think the State will be more interested in stopping the services going forward than they will be in prosecuting a pastor, but the legal question will be interesting to watch.

This twitter post links footage from the service Sunday:

UPDATE: The pastor did turn himself in on the charges. Seems like under the rodney howard-browne mugcircumstance, it would have made more sense to give him a notice to appear. That is, if you’re so worried about social distancing, there is an alternative to processing him through a jail with hundreds of inmates. But, they had a point to make, and wanted to give him a mug shot.

So, I probably ought to watch the ‘Tiger King’ Series on Netflix

Joe Exotic

All the media buzz right now is about ‘Tiger King’, a true-crime documentary series about a man named Joe Exotic who was convicted of hiring a hit-man to try to kill the rival owner of another big cat sanctuary, Carole Baskin. It even has a Florida connection, as Basin runs Tampa-area Big Cat Rescue! Baskin also disputes a lot of what is covered in the show. I did cover the story when he was first indicted. I need to hurry up and watch this series (I’ve still been working my way through the new season of ‘You’). I gotta have the reference point for all of these memes!

South Carolina Man Arrested for Faking Corona Virus

  • He faked a doctor’s note saying he had corona virus.
  • It forced the Business where he worked to close for 5 days.

Jeffrey Long

A 31-year old man in Inman, South Carolina apparently decided he wanted a few days off of work, and allegedly forged a doctor’s excuse claiming he had the coronavirus. The employer did the responsible thing, not just letting him off, but shutting down their entire facility, a call center, for several days while they brought in professionals to sanitize the building.

fake corona note

While he was off work, the man also decided to visit his children at school, causing educators to worry that other children had been exposed. Fortunately, the whole thing was a scam, and nobody was exposed to danger. The man, Jeffrey Travis, is now facing charges for forgery and breach of peace. This is the second South Carolina resident arrested for falsely making claims about the the virus. Robert Cullum was also charged with breach of peace for telling his employer that he was at risk because his son had the virus. However bad you might want a vacation, it’s not worth going to jail!

Florida Courts are still Open, and so is the Law Office of Spencer Cordell

  • You can still reach the Law Office of Spencer Cordell.
  • Our phone number is 239-333-4686.
  • Our email is spencercordell@hotmail.com .

The wheels of justice must continue to turn, in particular for those accused of crimes during the public health emergency. Florida courthouses, including those in Southwest Florida, are open on a limited basis for essential hearings. Among those hearings still happening are arraignments, injunctions, and first appearances for those who have been arrested. Attorney Spencer Cordell is available to consult by phone, answer emails, and even video chat if that is necessary.

Please stay safe during this health emergency. The novel corona virus has impacted all of our daily lives, and we must take steps to protect others who may be vulnerable to COVID-19, but we can stil make accommodations to help. If you or your loved one are facing criminal charges, even if there is not an essential hearing coming up, we are still available to discuss your options, and the consultation is still free. Don’t hesitate to call you have been arrested, injured in an accident or want to know your legal rights.

Attorney Spencer Cordell, 239-333-4686

Man Arrested for Claiming to Have the COVID-19 Corona Virus

David Landeau

It should go without saying that you should not pretend to have a potentially deadly disease, and it’s even more appalling that somebody would do so in the midst of a public health emergency. But leave it to by claiming to have the corona virus. The bus was evacuated, and when police were called, Landeau admitted that he doesn’t have the COVID-19, the diseased caused by the corona virus. He has been charged with disorderly conduct and creating a false public alarm. Fortunately, it did appear to be a false alarm.

Don’t be David Landeau. Everybody is stressed out with the virus going around, so let’s focus on helping our fellow man for a while, not adding to the stress.