Category Archives: Drugs

Punta Gorda Lawyer Suspended due to Incarceration

steven burch

Steven Burch

Attorney Steven Burch, who had about 44 cases pending, primarily in Charlotte County, has been suspended indefinitely by the Florida Bar. Burch was indicted on federal drug trafficking charges in 2016, but continued to practice until recently. He was incarcerated after new charges were added, and his bond was revoked for violation of pretrial release conditions. Burch had arranged for a client to send the drugs, allegedly to then try to cooperate with law enforcement to get out of his own DUI charge. He had his client arrange to ship heroin, which he then disclosed to law enforcement. Unbeknownst to him, his client’s wife recorded the arrangement, and Burch ended up going down. He entered a plea to conspiracy to distribute, and faces up to 20 years in prison on that charge.

I’m going to tag this “reverse entrapment”, as it wasn’t law enforcement that set a guy up… it was his own attorney. And this will almost certainly, hopefully, be the only time I use that tag! Though, it is kind of similar to the Easter case from California

Advertisements

The First ‘Lake Boyz’ Racketeering Trial is drawing to a Close

Closing arguments are under way in the Racketeering trial of four men who are allegedly members of the “Lake Boyz” gang that have been charged as part of a major organized crime case in Fort Myers. There are so many co-defendants, that the court decided to separate them into multiple trials, and the first group is facing trial, four men, who all have trafficking charges, and one of them has additional drug sale charges. To prove racketeering, that is “RICO”, similar to the type of case that you might see from a mob or other organized crime prosecution, the State has to prove that there is an ongoing criminal operation, and that each of the defendants committed crimes in furtherance of that ongoing criminal operation.

The challenge for prosecutors, which was apparent from the initial warrants in the present case, is that while the State can prove that these defendants have committed prior crimes, there is a challenge in proving that the crimes were in furtherance of the criminal prosecution. Some of the prior offenses are as insignificant as marijuana possession, and it’s hard to demonstrate that simple possession is in furtherance of a criminal enterprise. A lot of crimes can be in furtherance of a criminal episode: drug sales, stealing for profit, violence to support gang activities: the challenge for the state is to prove to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt that these crimes were committed in furtherance of the criminal activity.

Many times to make that showing, the government will use an informant. Sometimes they are able to embed an undercover agent into the criminal enterprise, which is nice as they are generally able to give more credible testimony (think Donnie Brasco). However, that’s difficult, dangerous and expensive. Other times, the government will rely on a criminal informant, who may be willing to cooperate due to facing their own criminal charges, or because they are being paid for their assistance. Either way, informants can be less reliable witnesses, but they can be important for the state to prove that there is a criminal enterprise, and that crimes were committed in furtherance of the enterprise… in this case, a gang.

The State utilized several informants in their case against the alleged Lake Boyz on trial the last three weeks. However, the testimony of the informants was not as strong as they likely would have hoped. Listening to the closing arguments, it sounds like they denied knowledge of any of the Defendants being in the gang, working for the gang, taking orders from the gang, or doing things for the benefit of the gang. The State flipped one of the co-defendants as one of their informants, and he denied being a gang member. I didn’t get to see all the evidence, and I’m not on the jury, but the State has a big hurdle to clear in this case, in spite of the gang signs and rap videos. They have a problem trying to prove the enterprise, and the furtherance of the enterprise, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Closing arguments will wrap up this evening, and then it will be in the jury’s hands. I’m sure they will try to wrap it up tonight, but the judge has indicated he’s willing to come back over the weekend to finish the trial.

Florida Man Dances Naked through Fire, Attacks Officers

John Hennessey 2

John Hennessey

Naked Florida Man stories are going to become pass√© before long. This time, John Hennessey was found completely naked, holding a knife while chanting and dancing around a fire. At one point, he actually stood in the fire, chanting gibberish all the time. He had allegedly broken a window of a home and tried to set a vehicle on fire. Officers tried to rescue him, and he dropped the knife but then allegedly grabbed a large stick that he used to assault officers. Cape officers were able to use a Taser to subdue him, and he was arrested and taken for treatment before being booked. There were indications he had taken psychedelic mushrooms prior to the incident. He’s facing charges of Aggravated Assault (X2), Criminal Mischief, Resisting with Violence, and an additional count of Aggravated Assault on a law enforcement officer.

 

John Hennessey

Hennessey, via DOC

Hennessey is already on Community Control (which is like house arrest) for several charges out of Levy county, including drugs and aggravated assault. This reminds me of the crazy naked guy from North Fort Myers from a few years ago. This is the second naked man story in Florida in just a few weeks…

Florida Man Gets Naked and Attacks Couple with Rake

maurice castanedo3

Maurice Castaneda

Bill and Crystal Colwell were sitting at home minding their own business, when a naked man with a rake barged into their house. Crystal tossed a hatchet to her husband, but he grabbed a hammer out of his truck and “went to town” trying to fight the guy off. The guy, Maurice Castaneda, (or Castanedo) got several licks in with the rake, and Colwell suffered several lumps on the head and puncture wounds on his back and shoulder. The rake was shattered from the force of the attack.

maurice castanedo

Maurice Castanedo, via DOC

The Colwell’s suspect the suspect was on drugs. He retrieved his shorts from a nearby swamp and took off. Authorities called out the K-9 and helicopter, and were able to locate him a few streets over. He now faces charges for Burglary, Battery and Assault. Burglary with a Battery is a PBL (punishable by life offense) in Florida. I found a similar name in the Florida prison rolls: Maurice Castanedo has been to prison a couple of times: getting out for a robbery about 2 years ago. (There is another Castaneda, but that individual looks quite different- he happens to be on the sex offender registry). The distinctive Texas tattoo on this neck makes me fairly confident

maurice castanedo2

“Castanedo” via rapsheets.org

this ‘Castaneda’ is the same as the Castanedo in the prison photos. The recent release date indicates he may be subject to being sentenced as a Prison Releasee Reoffender.

He may plead insanity, or try to use intoxication as a mitigating factor. Normally, voluntary intoxication is not a defense- but if it makes you so crazy as to eliminate intent, they might have a claim! Most likely, he’ll be back in prison for quite a while…

Friday Fun: Florida Woman Blames Wind for Cocaine in her Car

kenneshia posey

Kenneshia Posey

A Fort Pierce woman had a unique excuse for the cocaine officers found in her car last week. Officers found Marijuana and Cocaine in the vehicle Kenneshia Posey was riding in with another person. When they asked her, she admitted the marijuana was hers, but denied knowing anything about the baggie of cocaine. When the officer asked how it got in her purse, she replied, “I don’t know anything about any cocaine. It’s a windy day. It must have flown through the window and into my purse.”

Officers were apparently unimpressed, as she was arrested and charged for both the marijuana and the cocaine.

Hooker Arrested for Prostitution

brianna hooker

Brianna Hooker

Lee County ran an undercover prostitution sting over the weekend and picked up a hooker… Brianna Hooker. There were 14 more arrests from the operation, in addition to Ms. Hooker. The undercover detective invited her to a location where he was staying, whereupon she agreed to have sex with him, then asked if she could smoke up before she performed for him. She has an extensive history of drugs and theft related offenses, and is facing drug possession charges as well as a violation of her earlier probation for this new charge. As is so often the case, the drug abuse likely led to the theft and prostitution as she tried to feed her addiction. That’s likely the case for several of the co-defendants from this operation.

Man Gets $37,000 after Doughnut Arrest

daniel rushing

Daniel Rushing

Daniel Rushing was arrested in 2015 when an officer mistook the glaze from his Krispy Kreme doughnut for Crystal Meth. He bonded out after 10 hours, even though he should not have been locked up at all. He sued the maker of the field test kit, as well as the city, who failed to properly train their officer on how to use the field test. They settled this week for $37,500. That’ll buy Mr. Rushing a lot of doughnuts!

This kind of thing happens more often than you would think. I saw a guy get arrested for patchouli that the officer said tested positive for heroin. A man in Ovideo was recently held for 90 days until a lab test proved that his drywall was not cocaine. He may be seeking an even more substantial lawsuit, that the taxpayers are going to end up footing. And to compound his problems, he may not be able to get the arrest record expunged because he has a prior history, which prohibits expungement under current Florida law.

News of this settlement comes as the City of Fort Myers seeks to finalize a settlement for wrongly arresting football star Nate Allen: which crimcourts will be following closely.