This week marked the third year since an FMPD department audit led to the suspension of four Fort Myers Police Officers. Three of them have since retired, but the fourth is still on paid leave, having been paid nearly $200,000 during his time on leave. The city brought in the Freeh Group to conduct the audit, which suggested possible corruption, and led to a restructuring of the FMPD, but no charges have been filed. Several pages of the report were redacted, and still have not been released to the public. Last week, the city manager told Council there is nothing that can be done while the case remains under FBI investigation, and there’s no telling how long that will take.
However, new reporting from WINK suggest the investigation is related to a federal case against an accused drug trafficker Robert Ward, who has also been charged with ordering the murder of an informant, Kristopher Smith. There is no accusation that the officers are implicated in that informant’s death, which occurred in 2013. But there’s another murdered informant, Victor Johnson, named in the redacted pages. Johnson’s murder occurred in 2016, and an internal affairs investigation was launched about leaks in that investigation. One detective claimed Captain Melvin Perry, one of the suspended officers, was responsible because he had be telling his wife details about the case. Perry’s attorney denies any wrongdoing. Apparently, that detective was counseled for spreading rumors about the other officers.
At this time, no officers have been formally implicated in any wrongdoing. The three that retired did so of their own accord, and the fourth remains on the payroll, with no findings of wrongdoing. It is still very unclear what exactly was going on inside the department at the time, or why the officers were suspended. Three years later, the investigation appears to be ongoing, which precludes the release of much of the information that could shed light behind the curtain at FMPD.
Harvey Weinstein was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, after a jury found him guilty of a criminal sexual act in the first degree and rape in the third degree. He faces up to 29 years in prison on both charges. The criminal sexual act carries a minimum sentence of five years. Weinstein avoided conviction on more serious charges for predatory sexual assault, which could have carried a sentence of 10 to life, as well as an additional rape charge. Due to Weinstein’s age, as well as health issues, he could be facing the rest of his life in prison.
Today, the court remanded him to custody pending sentencing. His attorneys objected, due especially to his health concerns, but the judge decided he would be held pending sentencing (which is not unusual when a sentence of several years is expected.) Sentencing is set for March 11, when Weinstein will learn his fate. His attorneys indicate the appellate process is already underway, and they may move for an appellate bond, which may be difficult to get on a sex offense with many years in prison. He also faces additional charges in California.
Bag Full of Drugs
Florida Highway Patrol pulled over two Florida men on I-10 in the Panhandle the other day. After finding out one of them had a warrant, he called for backup. The Santa Rosa Sheriff’s Department responded and brought a K-9, who alerted on the vehicle. The search revealed, among other things, two bags conveniently labeled “BAG FULL OF DRUGS”. The bags were full of drugs.
The men were charged with multiple counts of drug trafficking, drug possession and possession of paraphernalia. Notably, officers recovered some 1.36 kilograms of GHB, often called the “Date Rape Drug”. Only in Florida…
Clearly… not the most successful criminals out there. The drug trafficking charges alone carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison, and have associated mandatory minimum sentences. Not only is it not a good idea to carry your contraband in a bag that alerts to it’s illegal content… it’s probably not a good idea to be flying down the highway going nearly 100 mph, as these guys were when they got pulled over.
Mark Sievers DOC photo
Attorneys for Mark Sievers have filed a motion for new trial after his conviction and death sentence in the death of his wife, Theresa Sievers. Sievers’ attorneys have alleged several issues to be heard at the motion for new trial. The strongest claim is probably the discovery of new evidence. The motion alleges that a newly discovered letter from Sievers’ neighbor Mark Petrites proves that Petrites misled the jury about the extent of his friendship with Sievers, and that the letter helps explain why his testimony was inconsistent over the course of the case.
If the court fines that the motion is supported by evidence and that there was prejudice from the issues, the judge could grant Sievers a new trial. This doesn’t mean he would be released or acquitted, it would mean that the trial would start over again, but only if the judge is persuaded that the issues raised in the motion prejudiced Mr. Sievers and to entitle him to a new trial. The motion will be heard in court tomorrow.
Is it a crime to post a joke about a mass threat? Florida’s law makes it a crime to publish such a threat, including posts on social media, and does not require that there be an actual harmful intent. In a few weeks, a Florida appellate court will determine if the law will stand.
David Puy, and 18-year old in West Boca Raton, made a post on Snapchat that said, “On my way, school shooter!” He says he was actually on his way to meet friends for dinner, and meant it as a joke. There’s no indication he had nefarious plans, or even owned any guns, but posting the language that sounds like a threat made it a crime. The fact that he claims to be joking does not make a difference under Florida’s latest version of the threat law, updated after the shooting a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Puy challenged the law unsuccessfully at the trial level, and the case is now on appeal. It’s’ believed to be the first to challenge the Constitutional validity of the new version of Florida law. The issue is whether or not his words, which do not meet the historical definition of a true threat, are protected by the First Amendment. The appellate court is scheduled to hear oral arguments March 10, though it will likely be several months before the ruling is released.