Monthly Archives: June 2014

Dane Eagle’s DUI Reduced to Reckless Driving

Dane Eagle Mugshot

Dane Eagle Mugshot

State Legistlator Dane Eagle pled out to a reduced charge of reckless driving from his DUI arrest in Tallahassee. That’s not an unusual result on this type of first-time offense, that did not have any egregiously bad facts. Tune in to NBC-2 this evening, as they may run some of my comments on the case. Generally, when a DUI is reduced, there are similar sanctions to a DUI charge, just with a different conviction.

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/25888130/link#.U63MS_ldXVU

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The Dirtiest Trick, Revisited

A few weeks ago, I posted about what I believe to be the dirtiest trick utilized by law enforcement in their poorly-run internet sting operations: using pictures of OLDER decoys to supposedly catch pedophiles. I have personally seen cases where decoys of legal age were used to entice would-be consenting adults. I got an email yesterday that in another sting operation, in Orange County, agents were using images of decoys as old as 25 to entice their targets. I wish I could say that I was surprised. The sad truth is they claim to be chasing pedophiles, but they are using adults to lure people. There’s nothing wrong with meeting a 25-year-old on the internet, it’s the lie they slip in claiming the decoy is much younger that they use to arrest the sucker. While we don’t want adults traveling to meet underage children, our law enforcement resources are being misspent if we are pursuing people who are not actually looking to meet underage partners. The reality is even more harsh, as Florida’s draconian sentencing laws often don’t fit the crime. (See Marissa Alexander re: 10/20/Life)

Here’s a link to the image of the 25-year-old decoy: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzLomEB8bi2PTjZra3gtSFRyc0E/edit

Commentors have pointed me to the governingus.com blog that specifically follows these cases. It’s worth checking and they recently linked to a story out of Tampa by a reporter who really does some journalism and challenges the authorities. Noah Pransky used to work in the Fort Myers market, before moving on to a bigger market. We’ve linked to his stories on before on crimcourts, when he did a great expose on misuse of red light ticketing. Imagine that, the Fourth Estate keeping an eye on government intrusion.

Pransky, who is not on the defense side, unlike the author of this blog, says it perfectly, “Law enforcement may have crossed the line in going after some men who weren’t breaking the law at all.” He continues, “While many of those arrested will ultimately get well-deserved time behind bars, even if a few men were wrongly targeted by officers who were abusing their power, that’s too many victims. Those men will never be able to fully clear their names, even if their found not guilty, which is why we’re fighting for transparency, and your right to know that police aren’t engaging in entrapment.”

That reporting is especially important as the government goes further and further to invade our lives, and to keep secrets from our citizens: http://www.wired.com/2014/06/feds-seize-stingray-documents/

http://www.wtsp.com/story/news/investigations/2014/04/15/pinellas-polk-sex-stings-public-record-refusal/7749057/

Babysitter Falsely Accuses Black Neighbor of Home Invasion: Little Girl Saves the Day

Two men “broke in” a home where a four-year-old was was staying with her babysitter. The babysitter told police the men were black, and armed, and went on to claim one of them looked like the African-American neighbor. Police SWAT and Snipers surrounded the man’s home, arrested him, and questioned him for hours. Fortunately, the little girl spoiled the plot, telling cops that the men weren’t the right color. It turns out the babysitter orchestrated the whole plot, and her her white boyfriend and a friend stage the home invasion. Yay Abby Dean, superhero! Yay justice!

http://jezebel.com/4-year-old-ruins-plan-to-blame-home-invasion-on-the-bla-1595509393

Sarah Jones’ Defamation Judgment Thrown Out on Appeal

Ex-Ben-Gal Sarah Jones

Ex-Ben-Gal Sarah Jones

We’ve been busy around these parts and haven’t gotten to keep the blog as current as I’d like. I did want to take a brief moment and update on a case that we’ve followed extensively on Crimcourts, that of former Ben-Gal Sarah Jones. In addition to the criminal case related to the affair she had with one of the students she taught, she also had a defamation case against theDirty.com and its proprietor, Nik Ritchie. She was awarded a $300 thousand-plus judgment at trial, but this week an appellate court ruled that Mr. Ritchie was not liable for the postings of outside commentors. This is an important protection of Freedom of the Press for all websites, this one included, that mean that the publisher is not liable for the defamation of outside/ 3rd parties. The court confirmed that Ms. Jones was defamed by the comments on theDirty, but since theDirty did not post them, they were not liable.

FMPD has an Armored Vehicle, and Holy Crap it’s Huge

FMPD’s New Armored Vehicle, and MRAP

Fort Myers police have obtained a Mine Resistant Ambush Protection (MRAP) vehicle for use by the department. That’s great, you know, for all the mine attacks in the city…

The good news is, it was obtained through Federal Program to transfer old military equipment to police departments, and they are paying “next to nothing” for it. Sounds like a win for the city! And it will look great at parades.

Here’s another photo from Twitter, to get an idea of the immensity of this vehicle…

MRAP with SWAT Commnder Bernice,via @fortmyerspolice

MRAP with SWAT Commnder Bernice,via @fortmyerspolice

http://www.fmpolice.com/News/ArtMID/1176/ArticleID/1324/FMPD-to-Unveil-MRAP.aspx

Also, it looks like a friggin’ tank!

(Correction, AMBUSH, not armored, protection)

Melissa Smith Acquitted of Aggravated Manslaughter

  • Melissa Smith ran a day care where a child died in a kiddie pool last year
  • She was acquitted of the most serious charges
Melissa Smith Mug Shot

Melissa Smith Mug Shot

The jury found Melissa Smith guilty of one count of child neglect and three counts of culpable negligence this afternoon. She could’ve received 45 years in prison as originally charged, with Aggravated Manslaughter being the most serious charge. She still faces up to five years when she is sentenced July 3. The trial featured tearful testimony from both the victim’s mother and Ms. Smith, in an undoubtedly tragic case.

The Dirtiest Trick Used to Entrap Internet Sting Targets

Like clockwork, the commenters on the Operation Safe Summer are wholeheartedly in support of locking up these “perverts” and throwing away the keys. Some on Facebook suggested we dispense with due process and just take them out and shoot them. I doubt the general public realizes that many of those arrested in these type of sting operations are not the “real monsters and real scary, creepy people” that the Sheriff suggested they were the last time around, when LCSO did Operation Spider Web. Half a dozen people from that operation were acquitted. Several of the targets arrested were only teenagers, themselves, and this operation tagged several men who were barely over 20.

I discussed how these operations are set up for a high risk of entrapping people in my post yesterday, but I didn’t include one of law enforcement’s favorite tricks to entice non-criminals into being arrested. Law enforcement, including the task forces that usually propagate these internet sting operations like to claim that their decoys are acting as 14 or 15-year-olds. That sounds creepy when 70-year-olds are arrested fro trying to meet with them, but not so much when its other teenagers. What’s worse, and this is the really outrageous trick that law enforcement uses, is that they will send photographs of OLDER undercover agents in place of the supposedly younger decoys.

That’s right, agents will send their targets pictures of older, more developed decoys than they are posing as. Sometimes they’ll even send bikini pics. The precept that they are targeting perverts is blown out of the water when they use photos of older, more mature decoys.

Many times, the decoy photos may even be of legal age. The age of consent in Florida is 16 if the partner is under 24. Some of the pictures used in these operations feature 16 and 17-year-old decoy photos. That’s especially egregious when they are arresting 20-year-olds and younger. They can still prosecute the case, and they still do, even when the decoy photograph is of someone of legal age to have contact with a target. That’s dirty pool. That’s why people get acquitted from these crappy internet sting operations. Maybe this time is different, but time will tell when the details of Operation Safe Summer are released.

More details in yesterday’s post: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/lcso-ran-another-crappy-sex-sting-operation/