The State is Trying to Force the Parents of Accused Tampa Serial Killer to Cooperate

howell donaldson trai

Howell Donaldson III

The state has charged Howell “Trai” Donaldson III with four counts of murder for a string of killings in the Seminole Heights area of Tampa in the last few weeks. The State then subpoenaed his parents, Howell Donaldson, Jr. and Rosita Donaldson, to ask them about his history, including criminal, mental health and so forth. His parents, who were concerned that the State may try to use any evidence they provided to put their son to death, refused to answer the State’s questions or to cooperate. While the concerns may be sympathetic, there is no parental privilege applicable in this circumstance.

The State moved to hold them in contempt, and a hearing was held today in court. The Judge ruled that they would have to comply with the subpoena and to testify. He has given them until January 5, 2018 to answer the prosecutors questions or risk being found in contempt of court, which could include jail time.

This is fascinating, from a legal perspective, and the first time I’ve seen something like it. They were lawfully served with a subpoena (probably an Instanter), and the judge probably correctly orders them to comply under the law. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. The serial murders he is charged with are shocking, as four seemingly unconnected, innocent people were killed. The young man accused was a college graduate who was apparently polite, even with the cops that arrested him. This case will be in the headlines for some time.

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DUI on a Lawnmower in Port St. Lucie

lawnmowerAnother Florida moment- a Port St. Lucie man was arrested for DUI on a lawnmower. Kenneth Alleshouse, 56, was driving erratically on an access road where he was spotted by deputies. My favorite part is that he was using his lawnmower deck to carry a case of beer, and the cops got a shot of it!

 

kenneth alleshouse

Kenneth Alleshouse

Yes, you can get a DUI on a lawnmower in Florida. Unlike a horse, a lawnmower is a vehicle on which it is prohibited to ride while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances to the extent one’s normal faculties are impaired. However, it is likely less dangerous than driving a car. #weirddui

Florida Woman Charged with DUI on a Horse!

donna byrne

Donna Byrne 

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has charged Donna Byrne with a DUI on a horse, after she was caught riding in the road, and blew a .161, which is twice the legal limit for driving. Here’s the thing, the DUI statute specifically says driving or in actual control of a vehicle. We’ve talked about it before– the law in Florida does not provide for a DUI on a horse. She has also been charged with animal neglect and failing to provide proper protection for the horse. I doubt this qualifies as animal neglect where there is no harm to the horse (unless she did something inherently dangerous like taking it out on the highway). She may be guilty of something, but I think she can beat the DUI!

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Donald Trump does not Respect the Judicial System

Screenshot_20171101-135912Donald Trump, currently President of the United States, made comments today that make clear he does not respect our constitutionally based justice system. Discussing the process for prosecuting the New York City terrorist, Trump stated at a cabinet meeting, “We need quick justice and we need strong justice — much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke and it’s a laughing stock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.” Fox News, in their online story about the piece, edited the quote to make it sound like he was talking about the immigration system. This quote was not about immigration. This line was about the United States criminal justice system, which Trump has insulted.

This should come as no surprise, as his imperiousness as president has frequently stepped on Constitutional protections. Famously, Trump took out full page ads in NY City papers in 1989 during the prosecution of the “Central Park Five”: 5 young men who were wrongly accused of a brutal beating and rape of a jogger in Central Park. “Muggers and murderers,” he wrote, “should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes.” “Though he didn’t refer to the teenagers by name, it was clear to anyone in the city that he was referring to them,” said the New York Times. The botched prosecution led to the wrong men being locked up for years, and the actual criminal, serial rapist Matias Reyes, continued to roam the streets attacking women. Even after DNA proved their innocence, and the exonerations are now an exemplar of poor police procedures and wrongful prosecution: a fact the Trump still has not acknowledged. “Quick”, by necessity, has to take a back seat to the more important principle of “justice”.

It’s ironic that he would call the criminal justice system a laughingstock the same week his former campaign chair and other advisers had charges brought against them in Federal court. They are probably happy to be out on bond as their cases are pending, and glad to avail all possible defenses under the Constitution. It’s easy to point at an evil person like the man who drove into a crowd of innocent bikers in New York… but, the Constitution protects us all. The justice system is not one size fits all, and most of the Constitutional protections are to prevent Government overreach, they are to prevent the violations of those rightly and wrongly accused. Our justice system has developed over that last two centuries as a model replicated around the world.

We all want to see justice brought to the New York City terrorist, and all those who would commit crimes against our people. But the system is not a joke. As an attorney, both prosecutor and defense attorney, respect for the Constitution and respect for our individual rights are the starting point for justice, and it is disappointing, albeit not surprising, for Donald Trump to disparage that. This is not a partisan issue… like many Republicans, I believe in our Constitution and our justice system. It’s flawed, and those of us who work in it are always working to better it, but it is not a joke. And I hope that the leaders in this country, on both sides of the aisle, stand up to speak up for it.

-UPDATE-

The White House later tried to walk back Trump’s comments about the justice system. At a briefing later in the day, spokesperson Sarah Sanders denied that Trump said our justice system was a laughingstock, and tried to claim that he was saying the process has people calling us a joke. Video LINK. But that’s not what he said… very clearly he was the one calling it a joke. Here’s his full quote:

“They’ll go through court for years,” he said. “And at the end, they’ll be — who knows what happens. We need quick justice, and we need strong justice, much quicker and much stronger than we have right now. Because what we have right now is a joke, and it’s a laughingstock. And no wonder so much of this stuff takes place.”

The fact that they are trying to reframe the president’s comments shows that they know they are inappropriate. The fact that the White House spokesperson is straight up lying to us about what the president said is embarrassing. I’ll leave it to you to decide who is the joke, here. Sadly, it’s no laughing matter.

George Papadapolous Pleads Guilty

Oh no- George, say it isn’t so!

george papadapalous

Also, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was an unregistered foreign agent who, along with associate Rick Gates, laundered millions and millions of dollars through foreign accounts to avoid paying taxes. Real life Papadapolous has apparently cooperated with authorities leading to their indictment.

You Need a Permit to Kill an Alligator in Florida

molest gator

Alligator Warning Sign

Apparently it bears repeating, as a man was arrested this week in Palm Beach County for illegally killing an alligator. Yes, they are everywhere, but Florida has a complex wildlife management system, and you have to have a permit and tag before you can hunt for gators. If not, you can be convicted of a crime! Florida takes its wildlife regulations very seriously…