Category Archives: Florida

The Jimmy Rodgers Trial is Underway, Opening Statements were this Morning

Jimmy Ray Rodgers

Jimmy Rodgers, one of three men charged with the murder of Dr. Teresa Sievers in her Bonita Springs home in 2015 is on trial in Fort Myers. Jury selection began last Monday, and this morning the attorneys gave their opening statements. The State argues that Rodgers traveled here with Curtis Wayne Wright, who had allegedly been hired by the third Defendant Mark Sievers, Teresa’s husband. There’s substantial evidence to show that Rodgers and Wright traveled to Southwest Florida together from Missouri, and that they were here when Sievers was beaten to death in her home.

Curtis Wayne Wright has already pled guilty to his involvement, and agreed to serve 25 years in prison in exchange for his testimony for the state. That’s obviously something that the Defense will attack as to his credibility. Further, he gave several differing statements, at least eight, according to the Defense in their opening statement. The challenge will be for the State to use Wright to prove not just that Rodgers was present, but that he participated in the crime. The State also plans to use the testimony of Rodgers’ then girlfriend, to whom Rodgers allegedly admitted to killing Dr. Sievers. However, Rodgers’ girlfriend has been paid by the state about $400 per month for the four years since the crime, so the Defense will attack her credibility as well.

Crime Scene tech Van Waus testifying

The Defense conceded in opening that Rodgers traveled to Fort Myers with Wright, but deny that he was involved in the conspiracy with Mark Sievers to commit the murder. The State’s only evidence that directly ties Rodgers to the murder itself is the testimony of Curtis Wright. Not only is there a strong attack on Wright’s credibility, but Wright admitted that he was the first to attack Sievers. He says only after he struck her a couple times did Rodgers jump in to actually kill her. Wright’s testimony will be must-see viewing. Rodgers faces the death penalty, as does Mark Sievers.

Thieves in Miami Steal a Parrot so it Won’t Snitch

Cuca the Parrot

Report out of Miami today that an African Grey parrot named Cuca was taken from a home by burglars, along with jewelry and guns. Cuca knew hundreds of words. At least one thief was caught, but Cuca was not recovered. The owner heard on the streets that she was killed to keep her quiet about the identity of the thieves. Miami out Miamis itself, again.

via the indispensable David Ovalle

One of the Sievers Homicide Trials Likely to Start Tomorrow

It’s been over four years since Dr. Theresa Sievers was brutally murdered in her Lee County home. Her husband Mark Sievers, Mark’s friend from Missouri Curtis Wayne Wright, and an apparent acquaintance of Wright’s who is also from Missouri, Jimmy “The Hammer” Rodgers were all arrested for the killing and charged with First Degree Murder. Curtis Wright later entered a plea to murder in exchange for 25 years in prison with an agreement to give substantial assistance in the other cases, which means he will need to testify for the state. Sievers and Wright are facing the death penalty.

Theresa Sievers

Both defendants are seeking a continuance of the trial, but the judge is eager for prosecution to go forward. He has set four weeks aside to handle the case on the court calendar, and a few weeks ago the cases were severed, so they will not be tried together. That means only one can go, and Rodgers is the most likely to start this month. Since the jury must be death qualified, it will take several days to pick a jury, and maybe a couple weeks, especially in light of the media coverage the case has gained. But we won’t know until the cases go before the judge in the morning.

The Ninja Robber Trial is Underway in Naples

Surveillance Footage of Robbery

Andres Perez

A string of Florida robberies were dubbed the “Ninja Robberies” because the robbers dressed in black clothes and masks that were similar to ninja garb. A group of men, several from Immokalee, are accused of a series of nine armed robberies stretching from Collier County all the way to Orlando. Several men were convicted in Orlando and sentenced to several years each in prison for charges there. A couple of robbers have also pled to multiple charges in Collier and have been sentenced to 40 years for their involvement. Now on trial is Andres Perez, who is facing 37 different counts in Collier County, including Racketeering, Armed Home-Invasion Robbery, Carjacking and many more. Perez is accused of being the mastermind of the Ninja robberies. He faces life in prison in a trial that is expected to take several weeks. I would not be surprised if some of the co-defendants take the stand to testify against him as a condition of their plea deals.

Details Released in Arrest of FMPD Captain – the Case Still Looks Like Garbage

Capt. Jay Rodriguez

The affidavit for the warrant in the arrest of FMPD Captain Jay Rodriguez has been released, and as we anticipated in the detailed post about the charges yesterday, it doesn’t look like the charges are legally sustainable. As expected, the Misconduct and Prostitution Charges both stem from actions that happened in 2013, several years beyond the statute of limitations.* One newly revealed detail is that the investigating Detective not only accuses Rodriguez of misconduct for being involved in a false report, but also for improperly receiving a benefit with city money for the alleged sexual act. That allegation might sound good, except that he was working in an undercover capacity for the city police department, and his acts led to two arrests. That is still not a prosecutable case. It definitely would have been better practice for Rodriguez to have stopped the suspect before actually receiving a sexual act, but that does not make his action criminal. In fact, it sends a bad message that if the City gets pissed at its cops, it’s going to try to prosecute them for doing their job.

As to the perjury charge, it appears the questions posed to Rodriguez were a little clearer than indicated in the earlier press release. Rodriguez was asked “were you ever involved in sex while on duty” and “have you ever engaged in sexual activity on duty with a sex worker or prostitute”, which Rodriguez denied. These questions are not as vague as “did you have sex”, but they are not so specific that there is not ambiguity. Definitely hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. More importantly, this confirms it was an internal affairs investigation, which does not appear to be an “official proceeding” to satisfy the required element of the perjury statute.

Captain Rodriguez may have been involved in wrongdoing, especially if he directed the fabricated statements that led to the arrests of the two individuals. Ultimately, charges were apparently dropped against both of them. However, these charges, under more detailed scrutiny, still look like garbage. If Detective Kendall Bores, who swore out this warrant, does not have a better understanding of the law, that Detective should be reviewed for incompetence. And even if the Detective didn’t catch the problems, it should have gone through the State Attorney’s office (of the 12th Circuit) for review before the warrant was sworn out. But caution gets thrown to the wayside when political pressure gets applied on a high-profile media case.

Also, NBC-2 spoke to another attorney who agrees that the old charges may be barred by the statute of limitations.

Here’s a link to yesterday’s even more detailed post as to why these charges are garbage. To reiterate, police misconduct, and especially lying or falsifying police reports, deleting evidence and the like are extremely bad… but that’s not what Rodriguez is being charged with. As it is, these charges are, in my humble legal opinion, bullcrap, and I call it like I see it.

*Update, the News-Press points out the charges may fit an exception to the statute of limitations, as the accused is a public employee. The charges are still crap, however. They have also posted the full affidavit for the warrant.

FMPD Captain Arrested, but the Charges may be Fatally Flawed

jay rodriguez

Capt. Jay Rodriguez

So often, the cover up is worse than the crime. That’s the case here, as FMPD Captain Jay Rodriguez is charged with perjury and falsifying a document – two felonies – to cover up for soliciting prostitution, which is only a second degree misdemeanor. However, these charges may not pass muster when we get a chance to look at them. The arrest affidavits are not publicly available yet, so information is limited to the press release and related media coverage. 

The charges apparently date to an undercover sting operation in which Capt. Rodriguez was involved all the way back in March, 2013. He supposedly received a sex act and then authored a falsified account of his actions. This appears to be the basis of the prostitution and falsifying document charges. However, it appears that these charges are outside of the statute of limitations, which would prevent him from being prosecuted. The statute of limitations for a felony, such as falsifying a document, is generally three years while it’s only one year for a second degree misdemeanor. So, prosecution for these charges is more than three years too late!

I contacted FDLE to see if they had any comment about the statute of limitations, but they say the State Attorney makes the filing decisions. These cases are being handled by the 12th Circuit State Attorney, not our local prosecutors.

Further, it’s highly unlikely that Rodriguez could be prosecuted for receiving a sex act during an undercover operation. He was operating in his capacity as a police officer at the time, and that is a defense to criminal charges. For comparison, if an undercover officer buy drugs from a drug dealer during an undercover operation, the officer cannot be charged with buying the drugs. It may be unpleasant, but officers are given leeway under the law in these circumstances. The better practice is assuredly to make the bust before the actual sex act, once an agreement is in place, as indicated by the professor in this article. However, the officer is not prosecutable for his violation of the law. There have been several undercover operations locally where a sex act unfortunately took place, but those officers are not facing charges.

Even worse, the timing of this arrest makes these charges look politically motivated. Just 10 days ago, the News-Press ran an article about officers who have been on paid leave for a long time, prompting city councilmen in the article to say that they wanted to see some action. I cannot demonstrate that the FDLE was moved by political and media pressure, but here we are less than two weeks later with questionable charges. Now the city will likely commence termination proceedings. They got what they were looking for to try to stop paying Rodriguez.

The final charge appears to be perjury for lying in the internal investigation. FDLE indicates that Captain Rodriguez denied having “sex” while on duty. Even if the state can prove that a sexual act occurred (the alleged act was not on the video), they will have a hard time proving that he was committing perjury when he said he didn’t have sex on duty. The most common usage of “sex” would refer to sexual intercourse, and unless there was some better specificity in the interview… it’s not perjury. Further, an interview given in an internal investigation is almost certainly not an “Official Proceeding” as defined by the statute. Perjury usually means lying in court or to in some sort of formal hearing, not simply in a police interview. There is a separate misdemeanor charge for giving a false statement to a police officer, but unless there were some really specific questions being asked about the nature of the sexual activity, even that allegation would be difficult to prove. This charge is also unlikely to be provable beyond a reasonable doubt.

Another questionable issue related to these charges is that WINK news published what appears to be a mug shot of Captain Rodriguez. What’s interesting about that is that Florida Statute prohibits the release of mug shots of law enforcement officers. WINK is not in the wrong for publishing it, but the question is where did they get it? Was his mug shot illegally provided to the media? At this point, these charges, and the way they are carried out, create more questions than answers. I am electing not to republish the mug shot in this article, not so much because of the prohibition on dissemination, rather because I think the charges are bogus and have decided to only publish the professional photo that has previously been widely distributed.

Finally, these charges, and the likelihood they get dismissed, will end up serving as a cover for what should be the biggest scandal related to this whole thing. A Fort Myers police captain has been accused of lying, falsifying reports, instructing other officers to assist in his cover up, and possibly deleting video evidence of a criminal investigation. That is the issue we should be most concerned about, especially in light of the ongoing corruption probes at FMPD going back several years. While Captain Rodriguez shouldn’t be jailed for lying and saying he kept his bottoms on since it’s outside the statute of limitations, we should be terribly concerned that the department covered for his lie for six years. That’s a big lie, and if someone was charged with criminal acts, lying about it is far more serious for the effect it may have had on the integrity of our criminal justice system.

Here’s an edit of the video in question, from the News-press.

*UPDATE* NBC-2 reports he has been put on unpaid leave. I don’t blame Chief Diggs under the circumstances, but it shows that the arrest helped the City with their public pressure to take action.

Trial is Underway for Michael Drejka, in the Parking Spot Shooting Case

Trial started today in the manslaughter case against Michael Drejka, who shot a man in Clearwater in a dispute over a handicapped parking spot. The entire incident was caught on dramatic surveillance video, which will be played for the jury. Inescapable is the fact that Drejka is white and the victim, Markeis McGlockton, a father of four, is a black man. Further complicating the case, the Defendant got in a dispute with another black man over the same handicapped spot a few weeks earlier and shouted a racial slur at him. The judge has ruled, due to the similarity of the incidents, that the prosecution will get to tell the jury about the prior incident, but not the racial slur he allegedly used.

Drejka is arguing that he was justified in his use of force under the stand your ground law. the stand your ground law provides there is no duty to retreat, but it still requires there be a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm before deadly force is justified. Based on the video, Drejka has a challenging defense. Jury selection in the case will continue tomorrow.