Monthly Archives: January 2019

Croc-wearing Crocodile Jumper Florida Man gets a Year in Jail

Brandon HatfieldCredit: SJSO

Brandon Hatfield: Crocodile Jumper

We introduced you to Brandon Hatfield a few months ago– the croc-wearing guy who jumped into a crocodile pit at a St. Augustine alligator park, and got bitten, was arrested after he was found almost-naked in a lady’s front yard. He got brandon hatfield footsentenced last week, and he got dinged pretty good. Hatfield was sentenced to a year in jail, followed by 2 years of community control (similar to house arrest), in addition to being ordered to pay over $5000 in restitution for the damage he caused. He was charged with trespass and criminal mischief for the alligator park escapade, but he was already on probation for something else, which is probably why he got so much time in jail.

No animals were injured, but Hatfield nearly lost his foot after the incident. Apparently the whole escapade was due to his drug use, so hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call and he will get help for his substance-abuse issues. Court image via Beth Rousseau:

 

And in case you didn’t see the video, here’s a clip with highlights:

Attorney David Brener is Still Missing

Fort Myers attorney David Brener, who until recently was the attorney for accused Zombicon shooter Jose Bonilla, has gone missing for several months. Brener first failed to appear for a court date for a client he was representing that had been set for trial back in October, 2018. The judge issued an order to show cause, which orders the attorney to appear before the court to show why he should not be held in contempt for missing the court appearance. That order was served on him at a subsequent court date on a different case, and the hearing started on October 8, 2018. The hearing was continued to October 17, but Brener failed to appear again. According to court documents, Brener failed to appear for a third time, and the court issued a Writ of Bodily Attachment: a pickup order for law enforcement to arrest Brener and bring him before the court, and a contempt of court case was initiated against him.

brenerBrener has not been seen since those missed hearings. Since that time, several of the clients he represented have appeared in court without representation, and the court has appointed several of them attorneys, and other have retained new attorneys. Brener also failed to appear on the pending battery charge he was facing, and a new warrant has been issued in that case. FDLE lists him as a wanted person for the outstanding warrant, the last known address is vacant. Brener has also been formally suspended by the Florida Bar since November, 2018.

What’s odd about the missed court dates is that it doesn’t seem to be something that would cause someone to flee. It’s a simple contempt charge, not a sever charge. Brener was facing a felony the year before, and appeared for trial on that case in spite of facing years in prison, and he was acquitted. Brener does have another pending issue, a lawsuit alleging that he took $120,000 in legal fees to represent Mark Gaver, but did not earn the fees. Gaver is a Bonita Springs man who was prosecuted in a $50 million bank fraud scheme. Gaver was convicted at trial in Maryland and sentenced to 17 years in prison. That’s not a nice person to make angry. Also, at least one of the other Defendants that had hired Brener has expressed frustration standing in court without their lawyer, saying they had paid Brener a lot of money for their representation. Looks like all those Defendants are out of luck. No word on Brener’s whereabouts, of whether or not foul play was involved.

Underwear-clad Florida Man rolls around parking lot in an Office Chair

Deputies were called out to a parking lot in Bonita Springs for a naked man… and arrived to find him rolling around in an office chair. He had on nothing but underwear and shoes. The man appeared to be drunk or high (duh), and there were complaints that some vehicles were damaged. However, nobody saw the man damage the vehicles, so he was released to relatives. They found his vehicle, with a bottle of booze in it, but didn’t see him driving the car. They also think he took furniture from a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings and scattered it around the parking lot.

I am disappointed here… they legally could have charged him with DUI on a rolling chair. It would be a crappy case, but this guy was itchin’ to get locked up. He was certainly drunk and disorderly. We don’t even get a mug shot out of it…

Be sure to check out the other weird DUIs we have covered.

DeSantis Poised to Reform Medical Marijuana Soon: but People will Still go to Jail if they Don’t have a Prescription

Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana: with over 71% of voters in favor. However, the state government has slow-rolled the medical marijuana licensing process, effectively making it difficult for everyone who might need the medical marijuana to get it as quickly as possible. They have also placed many burdensome restrictions on obtaining it, the most notable being that it is very hard to be able to simply smoke marijuana in leaf form. The system in place funnels people to using oils and other derivatives, and restricts the number of licenses for the dispensaries where prescriptions are available, making the limited licenses potentially very lucrative for the lucky few who can set up shop. This probably makes it far more expensive and difficult for sufferers to get the marijuana they need.

This resulted in a lawsuit against Florida from medical marijuana users challenging the legislation enacted to allow medical marijuana, alleging that it is insufficient and doesn’t follow the clear intent of the voters. That lawsuit was successful, but changes have not been enforced as the previous administration chose to appeal the ruling. That’s an expensive way for our own state government to avoid the will of the people and to dodge the intent of our constitution.

ron desantis

Gov. Ron DeSantis

New Governor Ron DeSantis, who has hit the ground running in Tallahassee, has given out indications he plans to make an about face on the State’s position. DeSantis said of the smoking ban, “I think a lot of voters were frustrated… […] They think there’s been a lot of foot dragging.  So my job is, when the people speak, you have to listen. This was not an amendment that was really that close. It was like 72 percent.” DeSantis and his advisers have indicated an announcement is coming up, and that changes will be made in how the state is carrying out the medical marijuana amendment. It is believed the announcement may include dropping the appeal. One of his advisors even tweeted the hashtag, #nosmokeisajoke indicating support for a change in policy that would allow medical users to smoke.

With DeSantis and other republicans on board, the movement appears to have some bipartisan support. We just covered democrat Nikki Fried, the new Agriculture Commissioner, who is also pushing to change the regulatory scheme for medical marijuana. It should be something that both sides agree on, that people who have a medical need and a prescription, ought to be able to get the marijuana they need to help their condition. That’s the compassionate, and most cost-effective, approach.

As always, a reminder that marijuana still requires a prescription to possess or to smoke. If you don’t have a card, it’s a crime that will subject you to arrest, and possible jail time, not to mention a mandatory driver’s license suspension. Call an attorney right away if you get in trouble, this is the kind of thing an experienced criminal law attorney can help you with!

DUI on a Golf Cart, and the Suspect Growled at Cops, and much, much more

parks terry

Parks Thornton Terry

Parks Terry, of St. Louis, Missouri, got WAY out of control on his recent Florida Keys vacation. It started out pretty typically: he had too much to drink and passed out in his vehicle. Being that he was on vacation in Key Largo, his vehicle was a golf cart. He was in town visiting his elderly mother. When he was awoken by a public safety officer, he drove off on the cart, weaving all over the road, first waving at the officer, and then flipping him off. It went downhill from there.

Terry got back to his mom’s house and locked the door. One of the public safety officers tried to force his way into the house, and Terry’s mother barricaded the door by leaning up against it, while Terry laid down and pushed it with his feet. Another officer entered through another door, and was attacked by Terry. As more officers and deputies responded, they ultimately attempted to taser Terry, who grabbed the stun gun. Deputies say that he was tacked, and growled at them like a dog, while rubbing his face on broken glass on the floor.

It several people to finally cuff Terry. They carried him out and placed him in the back of the patrol car, where he continued to lash out. He kicked the door and broke the handle and the window switch. He yelled obscenities at the deputy the whole ride to the substation, which was on a whole other island, Plantation Key, some 40 minutes or more away, with a pit stop at the hospital. Deputies report Terry suffered a dislocated shoulder at some point during the altercation. He is facing charges for Battery on a Law Enforcement Officer, Resisting with Violence, Fleeing, Criminal Mischief, and a DUI. All of those except the DUI are felonies.

It appears that the officers other than the deputies may be sworn officers. If they are merely security officers privately employed, Terry’s aggression toward them would not be protected like the deputies’. For instance, battery on a security guard wouldn’t qualify for the law enforcement enhancement, and fleeing is only a crime if a vehicle flees a sworn law enforcement officer. They may be sworn officers, but it’s uncertain. The DUI and fleeing charges can occur in any vehicle, so it would not be a defense for Terry that he was driving a golf cart, as we’ve seen before. Even if it was a sweet red custom job-golf cart! This appears to be the first DUI we’ve covered on a golf cart… congrats, Terry!

Hopefully some pictures and/or video will come out from this incident, and we’ll be sure to share them here.

Marijuana Update for Florida: Still a Crime

nikki fried

Nikki Fried

Don’t forget, it is still a crime to possess marijuana or anything marijuana related in the State of Florida. New Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried announced yesterday she is going to name a cannabis director to oversee issues related to medical marijuana, agricultural hemp and marijuana edibles. I’m sharing this not just to highlight her efforts to improve the regulatory system for Floridians, which we support, but to remind everyone that it is still a crime to possess marijuana without that card. Even a little bit of marijuana is a crime, even a pipe is a crime, and any amount of oil containing THC is a felony. Conviction for any drug offense also carries a mandatory driver’s license suspension.

The fact that Florida has medical marijuana does not mean that it’s OK to carry around some weed. The laws are still being enforced, and sometimes aggressively. If you do get caught, contact your attorney right away!

It’s Illegal to Hold Someone Hostage with an Alligator

isaias garcias

Isaias Garcia

As the leading authority on Alligator related laws, I have to say this is something that I would not have thought needed explanation. It’s not really an alligator-specific law… it’s pretty much unlawful anywhere to restrain someone through the threat of harm. This week a Texas man plead guilty to one count of unlawful restraint after he allegedly made a ransom claim for $800 in an alleged kidnapping in Connecticut. When the victim contacted his aunt, he asked for the money to be set free, then sent a proof of life photo: which featured the victim lying in a bathtub, with a 3-foot alligator sitting on top of him.

Police traced the ransom call to a hotel room, and there they found the defendant’s girlfriend and the aforementioned crocodilian. However, the Defendant and alleged victim were nowhere to be found at that time. Police ended up charging Garcia with kidnapping, larceny by extortion, and unlawful restraint.

However, the facts of the case started showing flaws. “Our investigation developed information that contradicted the original statement of facts,” Garcia’s lawyer, Senior Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Demirjian, told the judge. For instance, after the ransom call… the phone was used to order some Chinese food. Prosecutors eventually agreed to let Garcia plea to the lesser count of unlawful restraint. He will be sentenced in March. Still, let this be a reminder, don’t threaten people with alligators.

Apparently the gator was rescued, unharmed.